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

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: But first: What drives a person to become successful? That’s the question behind MacArthur genius fellow and University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth’s research. She pins it on grit, an intangible, but essential trait.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman spent a day with her in Philadelphia to try to figure out what that trait is made up of. It’s part of our weekly Making Sense report, which airs every Thursday on the “NewsHour.”

    ROBERTO DIAZ, CEO, Curtis Institute of Music: As the sound opens, we have to have the vibrato open more.

    PAUL SOLMAN: World-renowned violist Roberto Diaz. Diaz now heads the tuition-free Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, the hardest college in America to get into, where he’s taught for years.

    But what sets Diaz and his students apart?

    ROBERTO DIAZ: What we do here is teach students how to work and motivate themselves over a very long period of time.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That pretty much defines grit, the catchword concept of psychologist Angela Duckworth and subject of her new book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”

    ANGELA DUCKWORTH, Author, “Grit”: Nobody gets to be good at something without effort, no matter what your aptitude is. And grit is about the effort part of the equation, right? Grit says, you know, whatever your talent is, you’re going to have to invest effort in order to develop skill.

    PAUL SOLMAN: For years now, Professor Duckworth has been on a mission: to teach grit to those who lack it. When she began her career as an inner-city teacher:

    ANGELA DUCKWORTH: It struck me that the gap between my highest-achieving and my lowest-achieving kids was yawning. How can we get kids to do better, and in particular the kids who I could tell from interacting with them had the aptitude, had the talent, to learn what I was asking them to learn, but weren’t?

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, Duckworth became a psychologist, working in recent years on a grit curriculum at KIPP charter schools.

    ANGELA DUCKWORTH: Clap twice. Put up your right hand. Put up your left hand.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Like the Infinity Middle School in New York City’s Harlem that we visited not too long ago.

    But is grit a function of nature or nurture? To Duckworth, it’s a silly question, because grit is like most traits.

    ANGELA DUCKWORTH: It’s partly genetic. But human beings could learn to be grittier.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But to teach grit, Duckworth thinks, you first need to understand it, see it in action. So we spent a day in her hometown of Philadelphia.

    What could KIPP kids learn from a viola virtuoso about grit? Passion, perseverance, payoff, even if only to yourself.

    ROBERTO DIAZ: Many of these details that we spend countless hours on may not be noticed at all.

    It’s connecting a note, a certain way from here to there, and then that one to the next one. The emotional content in that phrase is what will actually make a difference to you. And this is the kind of detail, that that kind of work never ends. It never ends.

    ANGELA DUCKWORTH: If you look at true experts, they never get bored, right, because what they find is ever, ever greater nuance in what they do.

    PAUL SOLMAN: They become immersed, says Duckworth, and then grit isn’t a grind, but more like an act of grace. That ducks the big question, though.

    ANGELA DUCKWORTH: Why do some people try, try again, and why do some people not? That’s what I’m after.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Looking for an answer, Duckworth developed a quiz called The Grit Scale, and tested it out at West Point. She found that grit mattered more than intelligence, leadership quality, even physical fitness in predicting which entering plebes would finish boot camp.

    Local super chef Marc Vetri confirms it. Which young cooks will survive his kitchen? Their grit helps him spot them faster than pasta reaches al dente.

    MARC VETRI, CEO, Vetri Family of Restaurants: It’s not always the sharpest guys. It’s not always the guys with the most skill. It’s just the guys or the girls that have the biggest work ethic. And that’s the grit, I think.

    MAN: Say when, chef.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Vetri’s grit has certainly paid off. He recently sold five of his restaurants to Philly-based Urban Outfitters. Vetri started out gritty.

    ANGELA DUCKWORTH: But you did get more gritty, more passionate, more resilient. I don’t know.

    MARC VETRI: It’s interesting. Yes, it’s interesting. And your experiences, right, once they start to work for you, you know what? Hey, that worked. Maybe I really need to start acting like this more often.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Duckworth is trying to promote the early teaching of restraint, self-control, delay of gratification, long enough so their benefits become apparent.

    JANE GOLDEN, Founder, City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program: This mural was created three years ago.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Jane Golden, who heads the city’s Mural Arts Program, may be, says Duckworth, the city’s grittiest individual.

    JANE GOLDEN: My father used to say, you’re like — you’re dogged, you’re like a dog with a bone, you’re — you know, failure is not a permanent state. It’s just not.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Golden took us to see “Family Interrupted” made in a prison, then transferred to this wall.

    The lead artist for the mural, Eric Okdeh, also worked with the prisoners to show the impact of their incarceration. Q.R. Codes are used to tell their stories in their own words.

    MAN: I said man, you know what? I’m ashamed to be in here. I ain’t got no reason to be in prison. I’m smart. I’m ashamed of myself.

    JANE GOLDEN: Every person we keep out of the prison system is a victory. Every young person who graduates from high school and moves on to higher ed, that is fantastic.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Turning negative energy into positive energy, through passion and purpose. So, then is grit also the answer to economic success, to a gratifying life?

    ALFIE KOHN, Author, “Myth of the Spoiled Child”: There’s a very big difference between helping kids to decide whether and when to be gritty, and to deify or romanticize the concept of grit as inherently valuable.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Educator Alfie Kohn is a grit skeptic.

    ALFIE KOHN: I don’t want children, or adults, for that matter, to be fearful that if they say this isn’t working, I don’t derive pleasure from this, I’m going to move on to something else, that they will be accused of not being sufficiently single-minded or having enough stick-to-itiveness.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Moreover, says Kohn:

    ALFIE KOHN: These concepts have the effect of blaming kids in dire circumstances for their circumstances, instead of looking at how poverty and racial discrimination hold kids back.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Duckworth concedes the point, to a degree.

    ANGELA DUCKWORTH: I think grit is a very important thing to being successful, but it’s also important to have a situation, have a — have a life that has opportunities for you to do well, right? And that’s separate from your grit.

    And the other thing I would say grit is not a substitute for is having values, you know, empathy for other people, other aspects of character. So, grit is an important thing, but I don’t think it’s the only thing.

    PAUL SOLMAN: For the “PBS NewsHour,” this is economics correspondent Paul Solman, reporting from Philadelphia on a story that required no delay of gratification at all.

    The post What quality do the most successful people share? True grit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    An edes aegypti mosquito is seen inside a test tube as part of a research on preventing the spread of the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases at a control and prevention center in Guadalupe, neighbouring Monterrey, Mexico, March 8, 2016. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril/File Photo - RTX2DV6U

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     JUDY WOODRUFF: Now the second in our two-part series about Puerto Rico’s major troubles.

    The Zika outbreak is hitting the island sharply this spring. And it’s expected to get worse, a source of major concern for women living and visiting there.

    Jeffrey Brown recently went to Puerto Rico to see how officials are grappling with Zika.

    JEFFREY BROWN: At the emergency operations center in San Juan last week, it was day 90 in the island’s battle with Zika.

    HECTOR COLON, Puerto Rico Department of Health: There is in red has 26 to 50 cases.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This center is used to dealing with hurricanes and other emergencies. But priority number one now is the mosquito-borne virus that’s been spreading here since last December, with some 785 cases so far.

    Deputy Director Hector Colon showed us how teams stay in touch with hospitals, and call individuals to offer counseling and information on how to protect their families. The most urgent focus is on pregnant women.

    HECTOR COLON: We monitor especially the pregnant women that test positive to Zika. We offer them to do a test. And the ones that test positive, we monitor them very closely once they give birth.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The fear is that Puerto Ricans will experience what was first seen in Brazil: babies born with abnormally small heads and brain damage, a condition known as microcephaly.

    Mysteries abound with Zika, including why birth defects occur and who is most susceptible. Most adults who get the virus have few or no symptoms.

    Puerto Rico, with its warm and wet climate, its economy in a shambles, is a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes and the virus they bring. No cases of microcephaly have been reported here so far, but there has been one death associated with the virus, and the Centers for Disease Control predicts that an astounding 20 percent of the island’s 3.5 million people will likely contract Zika this year, all this while the government is defaulting on its debt and cutting back on services.

    In San Juan, we found a range of reactions.

    WOMAN: I’m not afraid of Zika.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Why not? Why not?

    WOMAN: I guess because it hasn’t been near by me. I have never met anyone who has been sick of Zika or any kind of danger about the mosquitoes.

    MAN: It’s dangerous.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes? Are you afraid?

    MAN: Yes, I’m a little, because the women are pregnant have a lot of consequences because of the mosquito that bites and it has the virus, the Zika.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Mosquito-borne diseases are nothing new here. But Zika presents major new challenges, to understand it, prevent it, to educate people about it, while avoiding fear and panic.

    At a women, infant and children, or WIC, center, we watched a counseling session for two pregnant women.

    Neither Katherine Merced nor Nicole Ramirez has contracted Zika, but they told us they had plenty of questions.

    NICOLE RAMIREZ, Expecting Mother (through interpreter): In the first three months of pregnancy, I heard that Off had a chemical that could lead to complications, so I didn’t put it on.

    KATHERINE MERCED, Expecting Mother (through interpreter): I’m terrified, worried more than anybody, because it could be sexually transmitted to me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In fact, says nutritionist Amarilys Alvarez Sanchez, repellents such as Off are safe, but Zika can still be transmitted sexually.

    AMARILYS ALVAREZ SANCHEZ, WIC Puerto Rico (through interpreter): There is a lack of understanding in sexual relations, and that the virus can be transmitted from the father to the mother. Women will laugh and say they’re already pregnant, but they don’t realize the need for condoms.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Condoms must be used, that is, even after a woman is pregnant.

    In a nearby room, CDC behavioral scientist Melissa Mercado conducted a focus group to learn what women know about Zika, what questions they have, and where public education efforts might reach them.

    MELISSA MERCADO, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: We are trying to reach to the women, so we also need to know what types of media they are using, so that the message actually gets to her and to them in a way that it’s most accessible and clear. We want information to be clear in what they need to know to protect themselves and their babies.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In the meantime, research goes on at CDC labs on the outskirts of San Juan.

    Roberto Barrera heads a team in the entomology and ecology section that’s studying Zika-transmitting yellow-fever mosquitoes to better understand how to eradicate them.

    DR. ROBERTO BARRERA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: You’re looking at thousands of eggs.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s a big problem, since they have built up resistance to permethrin, the most commonly used insecticide.

    Dr. Barrera showed us a strain raised in the lab.

    DR. ROBERTO BARRERA: So, you compare the response of a local mosquito and with this mosquito that has been in a lab for so long. And you compare, and you can evaluate the degree of resistance to the insecticide that you’re testing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Field workers set traps like these around the island to gather mosquito eggs, which are then raised in the lab.

    So, this is where you bring the live mosquitoes to test the insecticides?

    In a separate trailer, Barrera and other researchers try out different insecticides and use timers to measure the effect.

    DR. ROBERTO BARRERA: The idea is to raise the survival or the mortality.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Higher-tech equipment was being used in the diagnostic laboratory next door, where scientists study samples of the virus to distinguish it from other mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue, that are also endemic to the island.

    Dr. Jorge Munoz heads this one.

    DR. JORGE MUNOZ, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: What made me worry was the diagnostic of the disease. We knew that separating Zika from dengue is difficult in the laboratory. We need a specific test to be able to separate them, to tell them apart.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Munoz says his team has developed a test that’s being tried out in labs around the Caribbean region. But it’s just a beginning,, with much still to learn about the disease, its impact, and how to treat it.

    As of now, there is no vaccine.

    Do you worry, as a scientist? You see what happens in the public, right? There gets a sense of panic.

    DR. JORGE MUNOZ: That’s right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And that could overrun the science, right, or the pace of the science.

    DR. JORGE MUNOZ: Yes, it put us a test. We need to react and provide solutions very quickly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla expressed his concerns to me about fears he said were overblown and based on ignorance.

    GOV. ALEJANDRO GARCIA PADILLA, Puerto Rico: Anyone can travel to Puerto Rico. The U.S. Olympic team will go to Rio in a couple of months. And that’s the mecca of Zika. So it’s safe to travel here. But if the woman is pregnant or trying to, then they should avoid to come to Puerto Rico or to go to Central Florida.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It was a not-so-subtle reminder that concerns such as the ones these pregnant mothers have may soon become more common on the mainland.

    From San Juan, Puerto Rico, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the “PBS NewsHour.”

    The post Its economy in shambles, Puerto Rico also stares down the Zika virus appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Ordaining female members as deacons would be a major shift for the Catholic Church. Photo by  Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS

    Ordaining female members as deacons would be a major shift for the Catholic Church. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS

    Pope Francis is creating a commission to investigate the possibility of women becoming deacons in the Catholic Church.

    The announcement came as Pope Francis addressed 900 world leaders of the Catholic women religious. The crowd asked the pontiff if the Catholic Church would consider female deacons. Roman Catholicism has historically kept an all-male clergy.

    “I believe yes. It would do good for the church to clarify this point. I am in agreement. I will speak to do something like this,” Pope Francis said, according to the National Catholic Reporter. He has previously said that women would not be allowed to enter the priesthood.

    Ordaining female members as deacons would be a major shift for the Catholic Church, Joshua McElwee, Vatican correspondent at the National Catholic Reporter, told NewsHour.

    McElwee wrote today:

    Francis said that it is a “theological/liturgical” issue of whether women can give the homily at Mass. He said there is “no problem” for women to give reflections or homilies at prayer services, but that during the Mass the priest is serving “in persona Christi” and is therefore the person to give the homily.

    The pontiff also told the women religious that the church needs to treat them with more respect, saying he has seen many times that sisters are made to do the “work of servitude and not service.”

    The audience pressed the Pope, according to McElwee’s report, noting that women served as deaconesses in the early Catholic Church.

    That statement is true to some extent, said Chad Pecknold, professor of theology at Catholic University of America in Washington D.C.

    “The [Catholic] Church made it very clear that that the deaconess was not part of holy orders,” Pecknold said in a phone interview. “She had a job at baptism. Baptisms in the early [Catholic] Church were done when the individual was completely naked. The deaconess’s job was to protect the modesty of a woman during the baptism ritual.”

    The Roman Catholic holy orders — or the offices of deacon, priest and bishop — are sacraments meant only for men, according to theology. The motivation for this idea, Pecknold said, comes from the first days of the Catholic Church when Jesus decided his apostles would be men.

    There are two kinds of deacons in the Catholic Church. Permanent deacons are married, help run the church and can assist the priest with preaching. Transitional deacons are priests in training.

    “Women do way more for the church [now] than the deaconesses of the ancient Church ever did,” said Pecknold. “The office of the deacon is closely tied to the [Catholic] Church’s understanding of marriage. The [Catholic] Church is referred to in the feminine, and the priest are men put in service to the woman [The Catholic Church].”

    The post Pope Francis considers ordaining women as deacons appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Russian gold medalist Alexander Legkov celebrates with silver medalist Maxim Vylegzhanin and bronze medalist Ilia Chernousov after they recieved their medals for the men's cross-country 50-kilometer mass start race during the closing ceremony for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, February 23, 2014.    REUTERS/Marko Djurica (RUSSIA  - Tags: SPORT OLYMPICS)   - RTX19DDU

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: new revelations about an elaborate scheme of alleged doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics. A top Russian Olympic official says that his government orchestrated a plan to supply dozens of athletes with performance-enhancing drugs.

    The head of Russia’s anti-doping lab during the competition in Sochi, Russia, Grigory Rodchenkov, told The New York Times he created a cocktail of drugs for a state-run doping program that included 15 medal winners. Among those alleged to have received drugs are members of the cross-country ski team and two bobsledders who won two gold medals.

    Russian officials deny the accusations.

    Rebecca Ruiz is one of The Times reporters, and she joins me now.

    Rebecca, thank you for talking with us.

    There have been rumors, I guess, in the air for a long time about banned substances being used by Russian athletes. What exactly did you learn?

    REBECCA RUIZ, The New York Times: Well, not just rumors, Judy. It’s fascinating, because Russia does lead the world in doping violations among its athletes internationally.

    But what is fascinating, Mr. Rodchenkov provided incredible details that in many ways validated a report that came out last fall. It was published by the World Anti-Doping Agency, and it was the result of an almost-year-long inquiry. He confirmed a lot of what the WADA report had said broadly.

    The WADA report said that at the Olympic laboratory in Sochi in 2014, there had been a police presence, that FSB officers, the Russian police, had been present on site in the laboratory. Some had been seen in lab coats.

    He provided details that some of those agents he worked with every night to substitute out the tainted urine of top Russian athletes who were expected to win medals at the Games.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, essentially, he is saying the government was behind this?

    REBECCA RUIZ: He is saying that the sports ministry gave him direct orders to operate, to follow — to execute these orders and to — quote, unquote — “win at any cost.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Rebecca, why is he, why is Mr. Rodchenkov coming forward? Why is he talking?

    REBECCA RUIZ: Well, ahead of the Summer Games in Rio, which are in three months, Mr. Rodchenkov said he wants it known that there is state-sponsored doping in Russia, that a lot of these athletes who are due to compete in Rio, he said, without providing names of those competing in the Summer Games, that they have been on his three-drug cocktail in years past.

    And, meanwhile, track and field athletes, Russia’s track and field athletes were suspended from global competition in the wake of the report last fall. So, currently, officials are deciding whether that ban will be lifted in advance of the Olympics in August.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We saw that the Russian government is saying it isn’t true. He said this is simply a continuation of the information attack on Russian sport.

    REBECCA RUIZ: Yes, that’s what officials told us as well, and we absolutely included their denials of our allegations. We reached out to the six sports federations whose athletes were implicated, whose names we had in this spreadsheet that showed dozens of athletes who competed at the Sochi Games who Mr. Rodchenkov says doped throughout the games and many of whom captured medals.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is Mr. Rodchenkov safe in the United States? I ask because you report that two of his former close colleagues back in Russia died unexpectedly a few months ago, just within a few weeks of each other.

    REBECCA RUIZ: That’s correct.

    In fact, he departed in November. He fled to the United States, fearing for his safety. He went to Los Angeles. We’re not giving any specifics about his location beyond that. But two of his close colleagues from the anti-doping world did die unexpectedly, suddenly, in February within weeks of each other.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just finally, Rebecca, is the International Olympic Committee, is anyone investigating this now?

    REBECCA RUIZ: We contacted the International Olympic Committee today. They said that they were worried about these very detailed allegations, and they called on WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, to act and to investigate his specific claims.

    WADA, meanwhile, has had board meetings today in Canada, and we have been unable to connect with any WADA official by phone and to get specific answers to our questions. But they have said that they are looking into allegations of doping by Russian athletes throughout the Olympic Games in Sochi, not just before the Games, in the lead-up to the Games, as Mr. Rodchenkov also said happened at past competitions, leading up to Beijing, leading up to London.

    But he says that, throughout the entirety of the Sochi Games, Russian athletes were doping.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, quite a story.

    Rebecca Ruiz, who reported on this for The New York Times, we thank you.

    REBECCA RUIZ: Thank you very much, Judy.

    The post Russian official levels new charges in 2014 Winter Olympics doping scheme appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (C) addresses the audience after the Brazilian Senate voted to impeach her for breaking budget laws, at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, May 12, 2016.      REUTERS/Adriano Machado  - RTX2E1P4

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Months of political turmoil in Brazil reached a divisive climax early today, as Dilma Rousseff, president of South America’s largest nation, found herself on the losing end of a vote in Brazil’s Senate that could ultimately remove her from office.

    Dilma Rousseff emerged from the presidential palace in Brasilia this morning to throngs of cheering, flag-waving supporters. She greeted the crowd, and declared her defiance.

    DILMA ROUSSEFF, Suspended President, Brazil (through interpreter): This process is a coup, because it’s an impeachment without a crime. I didn’t commit a crime of responsibility. I am being the target, a victim of a great injustice.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Rousseff’s impassioned speech came just hours after Brazil’s Senate voted 55-22 to remove her from office, at least temporarily. Her critics included another former president who was impeached in 1992.

    FERNANDO COLLOR DE MELLO, Senator, Christian Labor Party (through interpreter): We arrived at the peak of a crisis. We have arrived at the ruin of a government, at the ruin of a country. The greatest crime of responsibility is in the irresponsibility and disregard of politics, the irresponsibility for the deterioration of the economy of a country.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Supporters of Rousseff, including Brazil’s attorney general, branded the move a historic injustice.

    JOSE EDUARDO CARDOZO, Attorney General, Brazil (through interpreter): An honest and innocent woman, right at this moment, IS being condemned. A judicial presence is being used to oust a legitimately elected president. An innocent person is being condemned.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Outside, pro-Rousseff demonstrators briefly clashed with police. But in cities across the country, there were fireworks celebrating the vote. The divisions were evident everywhere.

    MAN (through interpreter): I used to like Dilma a lot, but at this moment I think Brazil should be congratulated, and I am sure things will get much better.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): It is very saddening to know that an honest woman will lose the presidency and was judged by criminals.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The drive to take down Rousseff began last year as anger spread over an extensive corruption scandal at Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned oil company. Rousseff herself was never implicated in the corruption. Instead, she was charged with manipulating government accounts to cover up the country’s deficit. She insisted her decisions were entirely legal.

    DILMA ROUSSEFF (through interpreter): I carried out those actions. These actions have been taken by all the presidents of the republic who have been in office.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Even so, the impeachment process morphed into a referendum on Rousseff’s entire presidency, as the worst downturn in decades laid waste to the country’s economy.

    Simon Romero is the Brazil bureau chief for The New York Times.

    SIMON ROMERO, The New York Times: There was a booming economy back in the previous decade. It was an emerging powerhouse on the global stage. But Brazil’s own recession has just become so severe and the wounds to the economy are to be self-inflicted by the policies that Dilma Rousseff was championing just a few years ago, that really her government just became unsustainable in that sense.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Rousseff was elected president in 2010, the first woman to hold the office. She’d once belonged to a Marxist guerrilla group and was tortured during years of a military dictatorship. But she endured, and ultimately became chief of staff in the administration of popular leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, during which 30 million people were brought out of poverty. Rousseff was his handpicked successor.

    Now the Senate has 180 days to hold a trial, and decide whether to make her removal permanent. She insisted today she’s far from finished.

    DILMA ROUSSEFF (through interpreter): We will remain united, mobilized, and peaceful. We are those that know how to fight the daily fight.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For now, the 75-year-old vice president, Michel Temer, is acting president. He’s promised to cut spending and privatize many state-controlled sectors, but he’s also been implicated in the Petrobras scandal.

    SIMON ROMERO: The most recent poll by one of the country’s biggest polling companies put his approval ratings in the single digits, and only 2 percent of the respondents in that poll said that they would vote for him for president. So he’s really starting with low expectations at this point.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All of this as Brazil is struggling with the Zika virus. And in just under three months, Rio de Janeiro will host the Olympic Games.

    The post Three months before Olympics, Brazil impeaches its president appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Illustration by Getty Images

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

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And I’m Hari Sreenivasan.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On the “NewsHour” tonight:

    REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), Speaker of the House: We talked about what it takes to unify, where our differences were and how we can bridge these gaps.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In a bid for party unity, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other top Republican leaders meet with Donald Trump.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Also ahead this Thursday: Brazil’s unpopular President Dilma Rousseff is suspended and could be removed from office, in the wake of economic and political turmoil.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we head to Puerto Rico, where the island battles to contain an outbreak of Zika virus.

    AMARILYS ALVAREZ SANCHEZ, WIC Puerto Rico (through interpreter): There is a lack of understanding in sexual relations, and that the virus can be transmitted from the father to the mother. Women will laugh and say they’re already pregnant, but they don’t realize the need for condoms.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.”


    HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news: A federal judge in Washington struck down federal spending to subsidize health care for low-income Americans. It comes to $175 billion over a decade. House Republicans argued the Obama administration is spending the money without congressional approval, and the judge agreed. The White House plans an appeal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Islamic State suicide bombers struck again in Iraq today, just a day after killing nearly 100 people in Baghdad. This time, they blew up two truck bombs in the recently liberated city of Ramadi; 17 Iraqi solders were killed.

    Back in Baghdad, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited victims of yesterday’s attacks. And two more bombings in the city killed five people today.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In Syria, a cease-fire expired in Aleppo, and fighting flared north of the city. Government forces battled rebels for control of a district just north of the city. It sits on the supply route to rebel-held portions of Aleppo.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States powered up an $800 million missile shield in Romania today, drawing the ire of Russia. The site has been in the works for years to stave off potential ballistic missiles fired toward Europe. U.S. and NATO officials attended today’s ceremony at the remote Romanian site.

    Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work insisted the focus is on Iran, and not Moscow.

    ROBERT WORK, Deputy Secretary of Defense: It was never, ever about Russia. We have offered to the Russians to show them the technical specs. We have done everything we can to try to make sure that they understand the capability of the system and why it doesn’t pose any type of a threat to their strategic deterrence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Even so, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official called the shield part of — quote — “the military and political containment of Russia.” He said the move will hurt efforts to repair ties with NATO.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Turkey lashed out at the European Union today over letting Turks travel within the E.U. without visas. It’s part of an agreement to curb the flow of migrants. But the E.U. says the deal also calls for Turkey to reform its terrorism laws, and not to target journalists and political opponents.

    In Ankara today, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that issue is an internal matter.

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey (through interpreter): You see the E.U.’s attitude. What is it? The E.U. says we should soften our stance in fight against terrorism and against terror organizations. Since when have you, the E.U., started to govern Turkey?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Since the migrant deal took effect, the numbers crossing from Turkey have fallen dramatically. Still, the E.U. today allowed five member countries to maintain new border controls for another six months.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The government of Malaysia says two more pieces of debris have been found from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The jetliner disappeared more than two years ago off Western Australia, with 239 people on board. The latest debris was discovered in South Africa and on Rodrigues Island off Mauritius. But they offer no clue as to what happened to the plane.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Back in this country, Senate negotiators have agreed on $1.1 billion in emergency funding to fight the Zika virus. That’s less than President Obama wanted, and it’s likely to be reduced further in the House. Zika is linked to severe birth defects and has spread across the Americas. But health officials are not predicting widespread outbreaks in the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S. energy companies are going to have to find ways to cut methane emissions by nearly half over the next decade. The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule today. It says producers have to repair leaks at wellheads and capture gas that escapes during hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The mandate takes effect this summer.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street had a lackluster day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nine points to close at 17720. The Nasdaq fell 23 points, and the S&P 500 slipped a fraction.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Pope Francis is signaling openness to a greater role for women in the Roman Catholic Church. He agreed today to have a commission study whether to allow female deacons. They’d preside over weddings and funerals, plus other functions.

    But the pope gave no indication that he’d consider admitting women to the priesthood.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Still to come on the “NewsHour”: Brazil’s president suspended amid corruption charges; new details in the doping charges against Russian athletes; Puerto Rico learns to cope with Zika; Making Sense of grit and what it takes to succeed; and much more.

    The post News Wrap: Judge rules $175 billion Obamacare subsidy for the poor is unconstitutional appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) takes questions at a news conference after his meeting with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Washington, US, May 12, 2016.     REUTERS/Jim Bourg - RTX2E1K5

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Republican presidential drama shifted today to a new stage, Washington. The man who’s now all but certain to be the party’s presidential nominee went behind closed doors with party leaders who had wanted someone else.

    John Yang has our report.

    JOHN YANG: This morning, Donald Trump went to the headquarters of the institution he’s shaken to its foundation, the Republican Party. He met for about an hour with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has yet to endorse Trump, chaperoned by party chair Reince Priebus.

    REINCE PRIEBUS, Chairman, Republican National Committee: It was cooperative. There was a good spirit in the room. So, I’m very hopeful. I thought it was great.

    JOHN YANG: In a joint statement, Trump and Ryan struck a conciliatory tone, calling it: “A great conversation. While we were honest about our few differences, we recognize that there are also many important areas of common ground and it was a very positive step toward unification.”

    In a news conference, Ryan stressed the things that unite them.

    REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), Speaker of the House: Look, here’s what we agree on. A Hillary Clinton presidency would be a disaster for this country. It’s effectively a third Obama term, and the other thing we all know is most Americans do not like where this country is headed.

    JOHN YANG: While there was still no endorsement, Ryan said it was a good beginning to try to meld Trump’s populist followers with Ryan’s small-government brand of conservatism.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: The question is, what is it that we need to do to unify the Republican Party and all strains of conservative wings in the party? We had a very good and encouraging productive conversation on just how to do that.

    JOHN YANG: Later, Trump tweeted: “Great day in D.C. with Speaker Ryan and Republican leadership. Things working out really well.”

    In his news conference, Ryan made clear there are principles he will not abandon.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Look, there are just things we really believe in as conservatives. We believe in limited government. We believe in the Constitution. We believe in the proper role of the differences and the separations of powers.

    These are things that are important to us, and so we just had a good exchange of views on these kinds of issues.

    JOHN YANG: Ryan’s reluctance to fully embrace Trump reflects concerns by Republican lawmakers about facing voters this fall with Trump at the top of the ticket.

    Norman Ornstein is a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. He says Ryan is walking a tightrope.

    NORMAN ORNSTEIN, American Enterprise Institute: Ryan is a smart guy who understands that the Trump candidacy for an awful lot of voters is radioactive. So, partly, what Ryan was doing was giving a little cover for his colleagues in the House when they go out there to run, showing that you can get a little distance from Trump without completely trashing him and alienating his own backers.

    JOHN YANG: Outside today’s meeting, a crush of cameras and protests over immigration created a circus-like atmosphere.

    PROTESTER: When our communities are under attack, what do we do?

    PROTESTERS: Stand up, fight back!

    JOHN YANG: Congressional Democrats seemed to relish the Republicans’ apparent disarray, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid jabbing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who also met with Trump.

    SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), Minority Leader: Since Senator McConnell has so enthusiastically embraced Trump, we can only assume he agrees with Trump’s view that women are dogs and pigs.

    We can only assume that the Republican leader is not repulsed by Donald Trump’s vulgar behavior towards women.

    JOHN YANG: But the Democrats’ presidential contest continues to threaten their own party unity. Front-runner Hillary Clinton was in New York, and Bernie Sanders and his underdog campaign traveled to Mount Rushmore, where South Dakota holds its primary on June 7.

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

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    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen at the Laboratory of Entomology and Ecology of the Dengue Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in San Juan, March 6, 2016. Photo by Alvin Baez /REUTERS

    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen at the Laboratory of Entomology and Ecology of the Dengue Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in San Juan, March 6, 2016. Photo by Alvin Baez /REUTERS

    WASHINGTON — Top Senate negotiators announced agreement Thursday on a $1.1 billion emergency funding measure to battle the Zika virus. That’s less than President Barack Obama’s $1.9 billion request, which has upset some senior Democrats.

    Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., told reporters that she still prefers Obama’s proposal but has reached agreement with Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., on the smaller measure, which is likely to be added next week to a bill funding veterans and transportation programs. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., immediately set up a floor vote on the measure for next week.

    The administration requested emergency funding to battle Zika in February but Republicans controlling Congress have been slow to react, and instead forced the administration last month to tap more than $500 million worth of unspent Ebola funding to battle Zika. The compromise measure fails to restore most of that money.

    “I have pushed for the $1.9 (billion) since the beginning. I think it’s the right package,” Murray said. “But I have reached an agreement with Blunt on what we can put into a package, and we’ll have a vote on it.”

    The White House was heartened by the development. “Frankly, at this point, given the delays and given the heightened stakes, we welcome any sort of forward momentum in Congress,” said press secretary Josh Earnest.

    But top Senate Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada gave the proposal a frosty reception, saying it is “not enough, especially when the amount will likely be reduced further by House Republicans.” Reid and Democrats unhappy with the plan could try to block it, but there’s no obvious way to pass something more generous.

    The Zika virus can cause microcephaly, a severe birth defect. Babies born with the conditions have abnormally small heads. Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes and sexual contact and is likely to spread more widely during mosquito season. Polls show that the public isn’t anywhere nearly as scared of Zika as it was about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the handful of cases in the U.S. in 2014, but Zika awareness and anxiety is likely to grow as mosquito season heats up.

    Aides to both Democrats and Republicans said the Blunt-Murray proposal is likely to pass easily in the Senate, though Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., are demanding a vote on the full $1.9 billion administration request. No. 2 Sen. Republican John Cornyn of Texas is likely to offer an alternative that is financed with spending cuts elsewhere in the budget. Both of those plans are likely to fall to filibusters, however, leaving the Blunt-Murray compromise as the only option.

    Roughly one-third of the compromise proposal, $361 million, would go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for domestic Zika response such as mosquito control and rapid response teams. Another $200 million would be used by the National Institutes of Health for vaccine research and other purposes. And another $248 million would battle the virus overseas.

    The Senate move is likely to set up a conflict with the House, where GOP leaders are likely to press for a much smaller amount and pay for it by cutting other programs or using leftover Ebola money that was passed at the end of 2014.

    Across the Capitol, at a hearing called by House Democrats, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health acknowledged, “It is very difficult to get people to invest in something that hasn’t happened yet.”

    Federal health officials are not predicting widespread outbreaks of Zika in the continental United States. The CDC reports more than 500 case of Zika in the continental United States, all of which are related to overseas travel.

    The Senate measure would also preserve an administration program that would use some of the leftover Ebola money to help poorer nations build up their health infrastructure.

    The post Senate reaches deal on reduced Zika funding appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A bathroom sign welcomes both genders at a restaurant in Durham, North Carolina May 5, 2016. Photo by Jonathan Drake/REUTERS

    A bathroom sign welcomes both genders at a restaurant in Durham, North Carolina May 5, 2016. Photo by Jonathan Drake/REUTERS

    WASHINGTON — Public schools must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, according to an Obama administration directive issued amid a court fight between the federal government and North Carolina.

    The decree from leaders at the departments of Education and Justice says public schools are obligated to treat their transgender students in a way that matches their gender identity, even if their education records or identity documents indicate a different sex.

    “There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

    The directive is contained in a  letter being sent to school districts Friday.

    It does not impose any new legal requirements, but federal officials say it’s meant to clarify school districts’ obligations to educate students in nondiscriminatory environments. Educators have repeatedly sought guidance on how to comply with Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in institutions that receive federal funding, Education Secretary John B. King said in a statement.

    “We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence,” King said.

    The move was cheered by Human Rights Campaign, a gay, lesbian and transgender civil rights organization, which called the guidelines “groundbreaking.”

    The guidance comes days after the Justice Department sued North Carolina over a new state law that says transgender people must use public bathrooms, showers and changing rooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate. The administration has said the law violates the Civil Rights Act.

    North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has argued that the state law is a “commonsense privacy policy” and that the Justice Department’s position is “baseless and blatant overreach.” His administration also filed a lawsuit Monday against the federal government.

    This story was updated.

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    In a 32-30 vote Wednesday, the House Armed Services Committee voted for a proposal that required women to register for the military draft. Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

    A return to forcing people to join the military seems unlikely. Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Women would begin signing up with Selective Service in January 2018 under a measure approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, another step toward a day when young Americans of both genders may be subject to the military draft.

    A return to forcing people to join the military seems unlikely. Military leaders maintain the all-volunteer force is working and do not want a return to conscription. The U.S. has not had a military draft since 1973, in the waning years of the Vietnam War era, but all men are required by law to register with Selective Service within 30 days of turning 18.

    Women have never been required to register and have never been part of a large-scale draft. Any justification for barring women from draft registration was erased last year, when the Pentagon announced that all military jobs would be open to women, the Senate committee said late Thursday in a summary of its annual defense policy bill. The committee approved the bill on a vote of 23-3.

    The committee noted that the top officers in each of the military branches expressed support for including women in a potential draft during testimony before Congress.

    Despite agreement by both the Senate and the House Armed Services committees on this issue, a provocative debate is expected when legislation requiring women to register is considered in the full Senate and House.

    “This is a highly consequential – and, for many American families, a deeply controversial – decision that deserves to be resolved by Congress after a robust and transparent debate in front of the American people, instead of buried in an embargoed document that is passed every year to fund military pay and benefits,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah., who voted against the policy bill.

    Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Connecticut (L) and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas made history on Friday as they became the first females to graduate from the Army's elite and grueling 62-day Ranger school, at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Army's new chief of staff, Gen. Mark Milley is considering if he should recommend to Defense Secretary Ash Carter that some combat roles remain restricted to men only. Photo by Tami Chappell/Reuters

    Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Connecticut (L) and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas made history last August as they became the first females to graduate from the Army’s elite and grueling 62-day Ranger school, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Photo by Tami Chappell/Reuters

    Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who served with the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he believes most Americans don’t want women to be drafted. Despite his objections, Hunter proposed — and then voted against — an amendment requiring women to register. It was narrowly adopted by the House Armed Services Committee in late April.

    Hunter said he offered the measure to force a discussion about how the Pentagon’s decision to void gender restrictions on military service failed to consider whether the exclusion on drafting women also should be lifted. He argued that the call should be made by Congress.

    The White House has declined to say whether President Barack Obama would sign into law legislation that expands the draft to include women.

    A longstanding congressional ban on moving prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility to the United States is included in the policy bill. The prohibition, which the White House opposes, has kept Obama from fulfilling a campaign pledge to shutter the facility.

    The legislation also proposes to help shrink the remaining population at Guantanamo by allowing detainees to plead guilty to criminal charges in federal civilian courts via video teleconference. Those detainees could then be transferred to other countries to serve their sentences.

    But the Center for Constitutional Rights, an advocacy group, opposed the change and said allowing pleas by remote video is an attempt to change the rules “in order to stymie the defense and afford the prosecution a greater chance to win these cases.”

    Overall, the Senate committee measure approved Thursday provides $602 billion in fiscal year 2017 for the Defense Department and for nuclear weapons programs managed by Energy Department.

    The Senate committee did not follow the House panel’s lead and shift $18 billion in wartime spending to pay for additional weapons and troops to reverse what Republicans and a number of Democrats have called a crisis in the U.S. military’s combat readiness. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Armed Services Committee chairman, is planning to propose a strategy for securing additional money for the military when the full Senate takes up the bill. That could happen as early as next week.

    The committee did identify $3 billion in savings from the defense budget proposed by the Obama administration “and redirected those funds toward critical needs of our warfighters,” according to the summary. The committee also added $2 billion for additional training, depot maintenance and weapons sustainment.

    The post Coming soon: A military draft for women? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    This toy rooster was recovered from the esophagus of a young patient. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    This toy rooster was recovered from the esophagus of a young patient. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    Kids swallow a lot of weird things.

    And stick other weird things up their nostrils. Or lodge them in their ears.

    And for as long as kids have been doing all that, pediatricians have been collecting anecdotes — and souvenirs. One collection at Boston Children’s Hospital includes scores of objects removed from patients going all the way back to 1918 — including a chicken claw, a sardine can key, a doll’s hand, and a 1940 pin supporting the reelection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    A toy pin recovered from a child's esophagus in 1929. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    A toy pin recovered from a child’s esophagus in 1929. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    It’s no mystery why kids are forever getting themselves into these fixes. “They’re learning about their environment by sticking things in their mouth,” said Dr. Jacob Brodsky, an ear, nose, and throat specialist who practices at Boston Children’s. And those who do it once often give it a try again. “We have some frequent flyers,” Brodsky said.

    Dr. Karthik Balakrishnan, a pediatric ear, nose, and throat specialist at the Mayo Clinic, said he’s seen kids ingest everything from straight pins to a hearing aid. Once, he treated a young girl with a googly eye wedged in her ear.

    “When I looked in her ear, I saw an eye looking back at me,” he said.

    A plastic ring removed from a young patient's esophagus in 1945. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    A plastic ring removed from a young patient’s esophagus in 1945. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    Dozens of those cases prepared him for his own role as the father of a 2-year-old son.

    “Just recently, he put a bunch of soybeans in his nose and shouted, ‘Daddy! Edamame in my nose!’” Balakrishnan said. He had to pull them out one by one.

    Pediatricians warn about the dangers of one commonly swallowed item: the small disc batteries that power devices such as watches and hearing aids. The acid in the batteries can burn through a child’s esophagus in under two hours, Balakrishnan said. He recommends that parents keep them far out of reach.

    "Bell in esophagus," 1945. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    “Bell in esophagus,” 1945. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    He also urges parents not to wait for a kid to confess that he’s stuffed a bead up his nose or swallowed a penny. If a child’s eating habits change suddenly or his breathing is noisier than normal, that might warrant a trip to the pediatrician. “They should have a really low threshold to come get the kid checked out,” Balakrishnan said.

    Doctors can pull most objects out of the ear, nose, or throat without surgery, either by hand or with scopes. If, by chance, an object works its way into the stomach, there are two options: remove it surgically, or let it pass through the digestive system au naturel.

    A chicken claw removed from a child via laryngoscopy in 1940. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    A chicken claw removed from a child via laryngoscopy in 1940. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    As for that museum at Boston Children’s Hospital? Pushpins tack the objects to typewritten cards with labels like, “Celluloid hand, larynx, 10-6-31” and “Doll’s eye in roof of mouth, 1-14-44, Dr. Ferguson.”

    The same doctor who removed that doll’s eye from a child’s mouth more than 70 years ago also happens to be the inspiration for the collection. A note explains: “It stands in tribute to Charles F. Ferguson, M.D., who dedicated his thirty-five year career at Children’s Hospital to the preservation of the pediatric airway.”

    A straight pin recovered from a child's esophagus in 1918. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    A straight pin recovered from a child’s esophagus in 1918. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    This gold wire was removed from a child's esophagus in 1940, one of many objects displayed at Boston Children's Hospital. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    This gold wire was removed from a child’s esophagus in 1940, one of many objects displayed at Boston Children’s Hospital. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    This sardine key was removed from a child's esophagus in 1942. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    This sardine key was removed from a child’s esophagus in 1942. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    This cotton swab was recovered from a child's windpipe in 1944. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    This cotton swab was recovered from a child’s windpipe in 1944. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    A thumbtack recovered from a child's lung in 1949. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    A thumbtack recovered from a child’s lung in 1949. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    This Roosevelt campaign pin was removed from a child's esophagus on Nov. 2, 1940. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    This Roosevelt campaign pin was removed from a child’s esophagus on Nov. 2, 1940. Photo by Alissa Ambrose/STAT

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on May 12, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post All the strange stuff that kids swallow in a single hospital museum appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Close-up of hands using smartphone

    “With a phone in front of them, students’ thinking is fragmented, as is all of their work,” writes teacher Steve Gardiner. Photo by Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: Growing concerns over the ways cellphone use affects teenagers has prompted in-depth study by neuroscientists like Dr. Frances Jensen, who wrote “The Teenage Brain,” and a new documentary, “Screenagers,” by Dr. Delaney Ruston, which addresses how parents deal with the effects of excessive screen time on their adolescents.

    Teachers also grapple with cellphones in the classroom, as they attempt to support the beneficial, educational use of technology while discouraging class-wide inattentiveness. Montana high school English teacher Steve Gardiner said there wasn’t any particular incident that inspired him to write this piece, just the observation that “after 38 years of teaching, this seems to be the most distracting thing I have seen.” 

    Addiction is a strong word, but it accurately describes the dysfunctional behavior exhibited by teenagers in my high school English classroom when I ask them to put away their cellphones.

    In a career that spans 38 years, I have not seen any single diversion that so distracts students from reading, writing, thinking and working. When the cellphone is in front of them, they are completely focused on it. When the cellphone is in the backpack, they are worried because they can’t see it.

    On the first day of class, I tell them that if they can’t go 57 minutes without checking their cellphones, they have a problem and need to seek professional help. They laugh. I laugh, but I know how true that is. Only when I tell them to take their cellphones and put them inside their backpacks do they start to understand how accurate my diagnosis is.

    In much the same way a chemical dependency controls an addict’s life, my students’ cellphones control their lives. Students claim they can read and listen to music at the same time. They claim they can do math and text simultaneously. Numerous research studies state otherwise. The ability to multitask with a cellphone is an illusion. With a phone in front of them, students’ thinking is fragmented, as is all of their work.

    We provide help to people who can’t control their behavior related to gambling, sex, drugs, alcohol and tobacco. We have no programs to help teenagers who can’t live two minutes without seeing their phones.

    Yes, they have their excuses.

    “I am expecting a text from my mom.”

    “My grandma is in the hospital.”

    “My boss is going to tell me what time I have to work this afternoon.”

    “I need to know where my friends are going to eat lunch.”

    All of those reasons may involve important information. Some of them may actually be true. We have eight minutes between classes. We have 43 minutes at lunch. School rules allow students to use their phones during those times, but not during class. That means nothing to them.

    They get creative. They text in their laps. They text in their notebooks. They text inside their pockets.

    Cellphones have become the modern security blanket….They sleep with them by their beds and text each other throughout the night.
    They tell me how important it is to respond to their friends, but the irony is that in paying so much attention to the friend on the other end of the cell connection, they blatantly ignore the friends sitting in the room with them. They walk down the hallways, oblivious to the hundreds of other students walking past them, in order to text a student on the other side of the building.

    Needing a phone in hand or sitting on the desk in front of them reminds me of Linus from the Peanuts comics, who carries a security blanket. Cellphones have become the modern security blanket. It is not just during school, at lunch, or after school. Students are using their cellphones 24/7. They sleep with them by their beds and text each other throughout the night.

    I don’t want to be a part of the cellphone police. It is a losing battle. This addiction is so strong that asking them to put away their phones and discuss a short story with the class is not going to change the problem one bit. It is not going to change if I confiscate a phone and take it to the office. In fact, in the latter case, the administrators tell me that the students report to the office shaking, in a state of panic about how to get their phones back.

    Many teenagers need help…their bodies are in the classroom, but their minds are inside their cellphones.
    There are legitimate reasons to have cellphones out in class. There are applications that work exceptionally well in most subject areas and make the cellphone a good learning tool. Even during those situations, however, a majority of students will be off task and doing something besides the assignment. They cannot control good use of the device. It controls them.

    What will they do when they are out of school and in the workplace? Many of them may lose jobs based on their obsessive and dependent behavior.

    Yes, addiction is a strong word, but physically, mentally and emotionally, a high percentage of teenagers are addicted to their cellphones. We have incentives to promote attendance and graduation, but many teenagers need help, because their bodies are in the classroom, but their minds are inside their cellphones.

    The PBS NewsHour’s Teachers’ Lounge blog, written by teachers or school-related staff, gives the public a glimpse into how current issues affect life inside schools.

    This story was produced by Education Week, a nonprofit, independent news organization with comprehensive pre-K-12 news and analysis. Read the original post from April 27 here.

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    Teachers Carla Smith and Laura Johnson pose for a picture with their third grade class at Jesse Sherwood Elementary School in the Englewood neighbourhood in Chicago, Illinois, United States, September 23, 2015. Nearly three years after Taliban gunmen shot Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, the teenage activist last week urged world leaders gathered in New York to help millions more children go to school. World Teachers' Day falls on 5 October, a Unesco initiative highlighting the work of educators struggling to teach children amid intimidation in Pakistan, conflict in Syria or poverty in Vietnam. Even so, there have been some improvements: the number of children not attending primary school has plummeted to an estimated 57 million worldwide in 2015, the U.N. says, down from 100 million 15 years ago. Reuters photographers have documented learning around the world, from well-resourced schools to pupils crammed into corridors in the Philippines, on boats in Brazil or in crowded classrooms in Burundi. REUTERS/Jim Young PICTURE 31 OF 47 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY "SCHOOLS AROUND THE WORLD"SEARCH "EDUCATORS SCHOOLS" FOR ALL IMAGES - RTS2DVV

    A new NBER working paper concludes that high-achieving minority students make significant gains in high-achievement classes. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: For 31 years now, Paul Solman’s reports on the NewsHour have aimed to make sense of economic news and research for a general audience. Since 2007, our Making Sen$e page has vowed to do the same, turning to leading academics and thinkers in the fields of business and economics to help explain what’s interesting and relevant about their work. That includes reports and interviews with economists affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Making Sense/NBER logo

    Each month, the NBER Digest summarizes several recent NBER working papers. These papers have not been peer-reviewed, but are circulated by their authors for comment and discussion. With the NBER’s blessing, Making Sen$e is pleased to feature these summaries regularly on our page.

    The following summary was written by the NBER and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Making Sen$e.

    For years, researchers have debated the impact of high-achievement classes on minority students. Are there significant gains for those who participate in special classes for gifted and high-achieving students? Do other students who are “left behind” in traditional classrooms experience a declining quality of education if gifted and high-achieving children are reassigned elsewhere?

    In “Can Tracking Raise the Test Scores of High-Ability Minority Students?”David Card and Laura Giuliano study the impact of tracking programs that place students — both truly gifted students with exceptionally high IQs and high achievers who don’t fit the strict definition of “gifted”— in advanced fourth- and fifth-grade classes within a large, urban school district. They conclude that high-achieving minority students make significant gains in such classes and find no evidence of spillovers, good or bad, on students who remain in traditional classrooms.

    Previous studies have shown that blacks and Hispanics are significantly underrepresented within high-achievement classes and that racial disparities widen even among high-achievers as time passes. In the new study, the researchers examine data from a large and racially diverse urban school district that, in 2004, implemented a policy requiring a school to create advanced academic classes for fourth and fifth graders if the school had one or more students who met the state’s standards for gifted status (including a minimum IQ threshold of 130 points for non-disadvantaged students or 116 points for subsidized lunch participants and English Language Learners). Because there usually were not enough such students to fill the classroom, schools were allowed to include high achievers in what became known as Gifted/High Achiever, or GHA, classes. The GHA students were taught by many of the same teachers and used the same textbooks as students in traditional classes, but teachers were given some discretion over the pace and intensity of learning within GHA classrooms.

    high-achievement classes

    Using data compiled on third, fourth and fifth graders in 140 elementary schools between 2008 and 2011, the researchers compared GHA and traditional classrooms. They found that participation in a fourth-grade GHA class had a significant positive impact on the test scores of high-achieving black and Hispanic students, who gained 0.5 standard deviation units in fourth grade reading and math scores. These effects extended into at least sixth grade. The effects for white students were small and insignificant.

    The researchers did not find any evidence of either positive or negative spillover effects on other students in the same school or in other schools, including those who narrowly missed the cutoff for getting into GHA classes.

    To investigate why there were impressive test-score gains among minority high-achieving students in GHA classes, while white high-achievers did not post similar results, the researchers explored a number of possible factors. They found that the quality of teachers and general positive peer effects within GHA classrooms accounted for only about 10 percent of the gains and that other factors were at work, such as high teacher expectations and the lack of negative peer pressure in GHA classes. They conjecture that negative peer pressure about learning is more prevalent in traditional classrooms, causing many minority high-achievers to underperform within such settings.

    “Overall, our results suggest that a comprehensive tracking program that establishes a separate classroom in every school for the top performing students has the potential to significantly boost the performance of higher achieving minority students — even in the poorest neighborhoods of a large urban school district,” the researchers report.

    — Jay Fitzgerald, National Bureau of Economic Research

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    Video by ABC’s “Good Morning America”

    WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is refusing to disclose even what tax rate he pays until an IRS audit of his tax returns is complete.

    “It’s none of your business,” he told ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked what tax rate he pays in a phone interview Friday. “You’ll see it when I release. But I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.”

    Trump has refused to release his tax returns until, he says, an IRS audit is done. He says he will “gladly” release them when that happens, but makes no guarantees it will happen before Election Day.

    In an interview with The Associated Press this week, Trump said he hoped the audit would be done in time but feels no obligation to the public to get the returns out before people vote.

    “I really don’t, and I’ll tell you why,” he said. “You don’t learn anything from a tax return. I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world. Nobody knows more about taxes. You can learn very little from a tax return.” He also said he doesn’t believe voters have much interest in the issue.

    Still, he said, “I hope it gets finished soon. And if it gets finished soon I put it out immediately ’cause there’s nothing there. But until you get finished, you won’t.”

    In fact, tax experts say the documents could provide significant insights into Trump’s income and wealth, how much he gives to charity, the health of his businesses and, overall, how Trump plays the tax game.

    Trump also said on ABC he doesn’t keep money in Swiss banks or offshore accounts.

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

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    Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the U.S. Navy. Photo provided by U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters

    Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the U.S. Navy. Photo provided by U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A new Pentagon report says China has reclaimed more than 3,200 acres of land in the southeastern South China Sea. But the country’s focus has shifted to developing and weaponizing those man-made islands so it will have greater control over the maritime region without resorting to armed conflict.

    In its most detailed assessment to date of China’s island-building program, the Defense Department said three of the land features in the Spratly Islands now have nearly 10,000-foot runways and large ports in various stages of construction.

    And it has excavated deep channels, created and dredged harbors, and constructed communications, logistics and intelligence gathering facilities.

    The report argues that the accelerated building effort doesn’t give China any new territorial rights. But it says the airfields, ship facilities, surveillance and weapons equipment will allow China to significantly enhance its long-term presence in the South China Sea.

    “This would improve China’s ability to detect and challenge activities by rival claimants or third parties, widen the range of capabilities available to China, and reduce the time required to deploy them,” according to the report released Friday.

    “China is using coercive tactics short of armed conflict, such as the use of law enforcement vessels to enforce maritime claims, to advance their interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict,” the report adds.

    The 3,200 acres only represents China’s reclamation in the Spratleys and doesn’t include its building in the Paracels, further northwest, including the contested Woody Island, in its estimates. China has deployed anti-aircraft missiles to Woody Island.

    Chinese officials have defended the land reclamation by saying it is Beijing’s territory, adding that the buildings and infrastructure are for public service use and to support fishermen. It accuses the Philippines, Vietnam and others of carrying out their own building work on other islands.

    The report also notes that China has continued to assert sovereignty over the East China Sea, including the Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Japan.

    Vietnam, China and Taiwan all claim the Paracels, and the three along with the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim all or parts of the Spratlys. The U.S. says it takes no side in the territorial disputes, but supports freedom of passage through the area, which is one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

    China’s island building, the report concludes, is designed to walk right up to — but not cross — “the threshold of provoking the United States, its allies and partners, or others in the Asia-Pacific region into open conflict.”

    More broadly, the report says that China is steadily increasing its role and power around the world, while continuing to modernize and build up its military and inventory of ships, missiles and aircraft.

    Specifically, it notes China’s plans to build its first overseas military facility in Djibouti to help support naval operations in the region. U.S. officials have been increasingly concerned China’s activities could be a prelude to enforcing a possible air defense identification zone over the South China Sea. The report also repeats assertions by Defense Secretary Ash Carter that continued provocation by China may only improve U.S. relations in the Asia Pacific.

    “China’s increasingly assertive efforts to advance its national sovereignty and territorial claims, its forceful rhetoric, and lack of transparency about its growing military capabilities and strategic decision-making continue to raise tensions and have caused countries in the region to enhance their ties to the United States,” the report said.

    U.S. officials have been increasingly concerned China’s activities could be a prelude to enforcing a possible air defense identification zone over the South China Sea, similar to one it declared over disputed Japanese-held islands in the East China Sea in 2013.

    As noted in previous year’s reports, China continues to target U.S. government and Defense Department computer systems through cyber intrusions. The report said that during 2015, China used it’s cyber capabilities to spy on the U.S. and steal information from computer networks.

    “The information targeted could potentially be used to benefit China’s defense industry, high-technology industries, and provide the CCP insights into U.S. leadership perspectives on key China issues,” the report said.

    MORE: Why the U.S. is worried about China’s land grab

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    A computer screen displays the genetic sequence of the H1N1 swine flu virus at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Baltimore, September 3, 2009. The new H1N1 virus has killed 36 U.S. children, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.   REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES HEALTH) - RTR27EPI

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Each year, thousands of seemingly healthy young people suddenly die. And, in many cases, doctors aren’t able to determine the cause.

    Scientists in San Diego are starting to solve some of these medical mysteries through a process called genetic sequencing. What they’re learning can have a profound ripple effect on surviving family members.

    Science reporter David Wagner from our member station KPBS in San Diego reports.

    DAVID WAGNER: Dardie Robinson leads a typical life in Portland, Oregon. She spends her days working as a paralegal and catching up with all the kids she has raised.

    But unknown to her, she was carrying a genetic mutation that left her and family members vulnerable to sudden heart failure. A year-and-a-half ago, she received an unexpected call. It was about her son, Daniel.

    DARDIE ROBINSON, Mother: I got a call out of the blue from his girlfriend. And — sorry — she said that paramedics were there working on Daniel, that she had found him, that he was blue and unresponsive.

    And I told her, I said, “Tell him his momma loves him.”

    And she said, “Well, I’m sure he can’t hear you.”

    I said, “Tell him anyway.”

    And so she did.

    DAVID WAGNER: In tears, she left the office and got in her car.

    DARDIE ROBINSON: And on the way home, I got the call that there was nothing they could do, and that he was gone.

    DAVID WAGNER: Daniel was 29 and otherwise healthy. No one knew why he had died so suddenly.

    DARDIE ROBINSON: That was, to me, part of the — really the worst part, is because the word to us initially was, they thought that he must have committed suicide, he must have taken something. And I kept saying, that doesn’t make sense.

    DAVID WAGNER: An autopsy pointed to problems with his heart. And while she was relieved suicide was ruled out, the autopsy left her unsettled.

    If this could kill Daniel at 29, could it strike her other biological children?

    DARDIE ROBINSON: That was the question. Is it going to happen again? Which one of my kids? Me? I’m OK if it’s me, but I’m not OK if it’s my kids.

    DAVID WAGNER: Not long after she received the autopsy report, Dardie read a Los Angeles Times story about a study happening in San Diego.

    Scientists at the Scripps Translational Science Institute were using gene sequencing to take another look at cases like her son’s. They wanted to perform what they called molecular autopsies.

    Scripps research Ali Torkamani says one of the reasons they agreed to take on Daniel’s case was a strong family history of early heart failure.

    ALI TORKAMANI, Geneticist, Scripps Translational Science Institute: The fact that there was more than one sudden death in the family at a young age sort of highlighted the point for us, this is likely a genetic issue.

    DAVID WAGNER: Daniel, at 29, was by far the youngest.

    DARDIE ROBINSON: So, this was my dad. He as in the Navy.

    DAVID WAGNER: But a number of Dardie’s relatives had died from sudden heart failure in their 40s and 50s.

    DARDIE ROBINSON: And then there’s little Mr. Daniel.

    DAVID WAGNER: With strong clues that Daniel’s death may have been related to his DNA, the Scripps researchers sequenced genes from Daniel’s heart tissue. They also sequenced his parents’ genes.

    ALI TORKAMANI: And that’s when we found this mutation in this gene, TRPM4.

    DAVID WAGNER: Torkamani says mutations on this gene have been known to cause a disorder called progressive familial heart block. It short-circuits the heart’s electrical signals, eventually causing the heart to just stop beating.

    ALI TORKAMANI: And it’s that mutation that we believe is the cause of sudden death in Daniel and in other family members.

    DARDIE ROBINSON: “The mutation is likely to be positive for sudden death.”

    DAVID WAGNER: The researchers found the same mutation in Dardie, who had passed it down to Daniel. And because it’s an autosomal dominant gene, there’s a 50 percent chance she passed it down to her other children too.

    Scripps director Eric Topol oversees the study. He says Dardie’s case illustrates how a genetic discovery in cases like this can provide valuable, even lifesaving information to surviving family members.

    DARDIE ROBINSON: There, he was brand-new, brand-new baby.

    ERIC TOPOL, Director, Scripps Translational Science Institute: Because this is something that is eminently preventable with things like a defibrillator. So, whereas all these relatives through many generations had sudden death, we may be able to actually preempt this in the future.

    DAVID WAGNER: Dardie is now considering getting a surgically implanted device to protect her heart from what happened to Daniel’s. She’s also on a mission to get relatives on her side of the family tested for the mutation.

    DARDIE ROBINSON: Daniel did something significant. He gave us answers that will benefit not just dozens, but potentially, down the road, hundreds of people, maybe even thousands, because I don’t believe that this is just limited to my family.

    DAVID WAGNER: Not every case Scripps looks at is this clear-cut. But the researchers say certain discoveries they’re making could end up preventing other sudden deaths.

    If this new approach to autopsies becomes more common, researchers say, perhaps, in the future, fewer families will have to live with the pain of not knowing how their loved one died.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m David Wagner in San Diego.

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     JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we turn to a week in Republican politics that saw the presumptive presidential nominee confront a divided party, and one in Democratic politics that saw the underdog candidate notch another primary victory.

    We analysis it all with Shields and Gerson. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is away tonight.

    And we welcome both of you.

    I want to start, Mark, with our lead story tonight, the administration, Obama administration, putting out a directive to public schools all over the country to make bathroom, locker room facilities available to transgender students. What effect do you see this having?

    MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: In the real world in education, I’m not sure, Judy.

    Politically, prior to today, the politics were all on the side of those who had opposed the North Carolina law, which basically restricted and came up with — was sort of a bogus boogeyman, which I guess is redundant, that there were all these men putting on women’s clothes and going into restrooms to molest females.

    I mean, it just — but they passed…

    MICHAEL GERSON, The Washington Post: Yes, solving a problem that didn’t exist.

    MARK SHIELDS: Exactly. Exactly.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: That was their allegation.

    MARK SHIELDS: And I really felt that way. And I think that obviously the business community reacted as one and cost North Carolina great amounts of PayPal jobs, Deutsche Bank, Google, Coca-Cola. A Bruce Springsteen concert was canceled.

    So, there was a defensiveness. Now, today, this — today’s movement by the president strikes me that the silence on the part of Democrats, of Secretary Clinton’s campaign, of Bernie Sanders’ campaign, of other Democrats in leadership positions, I have yet to hear senators from the Hill or governors.

    So, I’m not sure. The federal atom bomb of federal spending, talking $3 billion in the state of North Carolina, is an enormous, enormous weapon. But I’m not — the lack of enthusiastic response from Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders, I’m not sure that they see it as an unmixed political blessing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At least at this point, we don’t know that they have commented yet. We haven’t heard of any comment.

    MARK SHIELDS: They didn’t rush to the microphones. Put it that way.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Good way of putting it.

    Michael, how do you read the political repercussions from this?

    MICHAEL GERSON: You know, I don’t know.

    This is the kind of issue that is normally handled with culture norms, and people making compromises, and, you know, meeting real needs, because there is one here. People should be treated the way they want to be treated. That’s a basic norm.

    But now we have both sides politicizing this, raising it to the highest levels of stakes, likely to go in the courts, way up in the courts, resentment, conflict. It’s turned into a culture war controversy. And we take issues like this that maybe people of good will could to some agreement on, and run them through this culture war machine of our politics, and then there has to be a winner and a loser, when, in fact, I think, on this type of issue, we have a long history of maybe reasonable people reaching accommodations in their own community.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re saying that’s what the White House has done by coming out with this directive today, stirring it up?

    MICHAEL GERSON: I think it’s an overreach, but I think the other side overreached in North Carolina as well, and by politicizing this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s turn now to the story I guess that had everybody consumed, Mark, this week in Washington, Donald Trump.

    Now that it looks like he has wrapped up the nomination, there is this dance, this effort under way to win over Republicans, especially Republicans here in Washington who still have not climbed on board, have not endorsed him.

    What did that look like to you? There were meetings. There were — behind closed doors. Some of these Republicans have come over and said they will support him, but others are holding back.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, Judy.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan being the most visible, I mean, a man who’s earned his credibility and his reputation of being a man of conviction on issues like welfare, of immigration reform, of balancing the budget, of open and free trade, of controlling entitlement spending and limiting and privatizing Medicare, met with Donald Trump, who has run against all four, emphatically and loudly against all four, and said he was a nice man.

    That’s basically become the default position for Republicans who really don’t like Donald Trump very much. Is he a nice man? Lindsey Graham is discovering in him qualities of warmth that had gone undetected in their fight during the primaries.


    MARK SHIELDS: And I think Paul Ryan reflects — he’s trying to provide some cover to his own suburban Republicans that might be threatened by a Donald Trump candidacy in suburban districts, where there’s a question of Trump being a liability to Republicans.

    And, at the same time, he understands that you’re far better off having a united party. I think what has helped Donald Trump, more than anything else, is that the first poll that came out, the CNN poll showing Hillary Clinton with a 13-point lead, 54-41, and then every poll since then has shown the race a lot closer, especially in battleground states of Ohio and Florida and Pennsylvania even.

    So, perhaps associating with him is not the political threat or liability that it might have been. And I think you will see people nudging over.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But how do you — what is the thought process going on here, Michael, on the part of some of the members of Congress especially who were just unalterably opposed to him, were supporting others, and now they are moving over to his side?


    I think Ryan has laid the predicate for eventual surrender. I think the normal reaction here is to try to rally the party, to pick the lesser of two evils, to find whatever agreement you can and emphasize it.

    The problem is, this isn’t a normal circumstance. You’re not dealing with a man that has some different policy views, even on big issues. You’re dealing with a man that’s not qualified for the presidency, not qualified morally because he picks on minority groups, not qualified temperamentally.

    I have seen what a president looks like. It doesn’t look like this. And not qualified from background and experience, and so I think a lot of the political class is dealing with this as one of the normal issues of compromise, instead of looking at this, is he fit to be president of the United States? That’s a question they want to avoid.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But what is the — what is that — again, I’m trying to get at what the thought process is, Mark.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: How is it that some members are finding him acceptable and others are still — are holding out? And Paul Ryan is holding out, but the sense is that he is going to come around.

    MARK SHIELDS: The question at the office pool is, will Bernie Sanders endorse Hillary Clinton before Paul Ryan endorses Donald Trump?

    But I don’t think there’s any question, after the post-session, that Paul Ryan is heading in that direction. Judy, if you’re running for reelection, it’s always easier to run on the same ticket with your presidential candidate lined up, because, for your own survival, if you break with the presidential candidate, that presidential candidate has some loyal supporters who may exact retribution on you, even though you’re running for the House or the Senate, that you turned your back on our guy and punish you.

    So, it’s easier to do that. But, you know, I have to say, I think, in the case of Lindsey Graham — this is projection on my part — why he’s going soft on Donald Trump or sounding softer, is that his best friend in the world, John McCain, is up for reelection and in a very difficult race in Arizona. And Donald Trump could be a liability there. And he just feels that, somehow, if he goes easy, that this will be less of a problem for John McCain.


    And I do have to say, we knew this would happen. When you get the nomination, controlling the party is powerful. But when you see it in reality, it’s kind of revolting.

    Somebody like Rick Perry, who was the leading critic of Donald Trump’s character early…



    MICHAEL GERSON: … talked about him as a cancer on conservatism, now angling for a vice presidential nod.

    You see some — a serious person like Senator Corker, who seems to have ambitions in that administration. It’s a sad thing, in many ways, to watch what happens when political reality takes hold in these cases.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you — how do Republicans reconcile what appear to be changing stances on positions, on raising taxes one day, saying, no, I’m not raising taxes on the wealthy the next day, different statements on whether the wall is going to be built and how high it’s going to be?


    Well, there’s two things to bear in mind. Donald Trump has no public record, OK? So, he doesn’t have policies. He’s never had policies, never been a policy candidate. He’s disdained white papers or think tanks or anything of the sort. He’s been a campaign of bumper stickers. Build a wall. Make Mexico pay for it. Take it back. Send them back. Round them all up.

    That’s it. So, as a consequence, he has no — he has a very tenuous connection with the positions he’s taken. I mean, they’re not based upon votes or anything of the sort.

    MICHAEL GERSON: But I think it is important. You know, he doesn’t have consistent views. When he changes his views, he doesn’t have any reason for changing his views, which is just extraordinary.

    MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

    MICHAEL GERSON: But it calls attention to the fact that he was never offering policy from the first day of this campaign.


    MICHAEL GERSON: On issues like jobs, on issues like immigration, what he’s arguing is that he should be in charge.



    This is an essentially authoritarian appeal. The people — many people who support him are essentially giving up on self-government, saying he should take care of it, he should be in charge…


    MICHAEL GERSON: … when, in fact, this is pretty weak hands to put in charge.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to save a little bit of time for the Democrats, Mark.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bernie Sanders won his 19th primary this week, West Virginia.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, he did.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there a chance that he could be the nominee of the Democratic Party?

    MARK SHIELDS: There’s a chance, a very, very slim chance, probably not a realistic chance.

    Hillary Clinton has an air of inevitability about winning the nomination. But Bernie Sanders has momentum. He’s won 11 of the last 16 contests. He’s won the last two. He has — both races in May. He’s on his way in Oregon.

    You know, so he has this sense. And he made a very strong statement on Tuesday night, that Donald Trump would be elected over my dead body. We’re going to stop him.

    He opposed him. So, Hillary Clinton would like to be rid of Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders has a constituency of young people, energy and passion that she needs desperately. She needs desperately to win and her campaign needs that infusion of sort of idealism. And I think Bernie Sanders is probably the only agent who can deliver it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael, how does this affect what she needs to do between now — if she is the nominee — between now and November, the fact that he’s still in here and Donald Trump sewed it up for the Republicans?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, we are seeing a significant — she’s won the nomination, essentially, not certainly, but essentially.

    We’re seeing that a significant portion of the Democratic Party wants to humiliate her eve, though she’s won the nomination. That is a serious thing. It points out that she’s not a particularly strong candidate. Trump and Hillary Clinton are some of the least liked politicians in America.

    It’s an extraordinary race. There are many people who are in the never Trump camp, but there’s also a number of people who are in the never Hillary camp. And that race could be closer than people think.

    MARK SHIELDS: But Bernie Sanders, in his defense, he has — he wants his campaign to have stood for something. And it has. It certainly has.

    But he wants to carry it to the fight for the platform of the party, to the positions. I don’t think it’s humiliation of her that drives him at this point. I mean, he’s been through all of this for so long, and he wants his people to have their moment in the sun.

    I think it’s absolutely natural.

    MICHAEL GERSON: But the alarm bells are going off. So, you have senators pressuring him to get out of the race because Trump looks stronger than they thought.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s a new phenomenon.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Gentlemen, we thank you both. We’re going to leave it there.

    Michael Gerson, Mark Shields, thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, the latest installment in our series Broken Justice about new approaches to criminal justice.

    Tonight, we have a conversation with a noted lawyer and author on questions of sentencing, overcrowding in prisons and whether a series of changes around the country go far enough.

    Jeffrey Brown traveled to Alabama for our report.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, a nonprofit founded in 1989 by lawyer and civil rights activist Bryan Stevenson to represent death row prisoners and indigent and juvenile defendants who he argues have been denied effective representation, often due to racial bias.

    In recent years, which included the publication of an acclaimed memoir, “Just Mercy,” Stevenson has become a leading voice nationally for criminal justice reform.

    I met him at his office in Montgomery while reporting on Alabama’s overcrowded prisons and spike in prison violence.

    BRYAN STEVENSON, Founder, Equal Justice Initiative: There were less than 5,000 people in Alabama’s prisons throughout most of the 1970s.

    And then you had politicians like you had all over the country get captivated, I’m going to say intoxicated, by the politics of fear.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Intoxicated.

    BRYAN STEVENSON: Yes, intoxicated by the politics of fear and anger. They began competing with each other over who could be the toughest on crime, and putting people in prison became the solution to virtually every problem.

    Drug addiction and drug dependency, which could have been seen as a health issue, was seen as a crime issue. The growing freedom that was emerging in the Deep South for African-Americans, who until just a decade earlier couldn’t vote, couldn’t go into schools, had to be regulated. So we used the criminal justice system, and you saw this massive increase in the number of people sent to jails or prisons.

    So, we went from about 5,000 people in the 1970s to 30,000 people today in a state with about 4.5 million people. That’s an unbelievably high rate of incarceration.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But you’re seeing this — you’re seeing our incarceration system as a continuation of slavery, of a history of racial injustice in the country.

    BRYAN STEVENSON: Well, I think it’s a continuation of using crime narrative to control social and political dynamics that can’t be controlled in more legitimate ways.

    And we created this so-called war on drugs, and we targeted people of color, and we got everybody to buy into the fact that if we don’t put these dangerous people into jails and prisons, we are none safe. And that’s how we went nationwide from a prison population of about 300,000 in the 1970s to 2.3 million today. And now we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And here in Alabama, an extreme model of it.


    And it’s rooted in this comfort level with reducing people to their worst act and acting in very extreme, harsh, punitive ways. I mean, a state that was shaped by lynching as a response to things like interracial sex, or organizing for better sharecropping conditions, to use lynching, calling these people criminals, has created a culture, an environment where then putting people in prison for life with no chance of parole for writing a bad check or being in possession of marijuana didn’t seem so radical.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Last year, Alabama’s Republican legislature and governor passed a law to reform some of Alabama’s sentencing guidelines and increase probation and parole supervision.

    Stevenson believes such measures here and elsewhere don’t go nearly far enough.

    BRYAN STEVENSON: I think people realize that we’re spending way too much money on jails and prisons. And I think that’s true in Alabama. It’s true nationwide. We went from $6 billion spent on jails and prisons in the United States in 1980 to $80 billion last year.

    And the recession was terrible for everybody, for everything, except criminal justice reform, because, all of a sudden, state legislators had to start asking harder questions about why we’re spending so much money to keep people in jails or prison who are not a threat to public safety.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And you think it’s more a concern out of money than anything else that is leading to whatever discussion there is about changes?

    BRYAN STEVENSON: Well, I think that’s the primary motivation. I do.

    If we were a more affluent today, if we had more resources, I don’t think we’d have the same interest. Too many people in this state, too many people in this country don’t care if people who are in jails or prisons are abused. They don’t care if they’re raped. They don’t care if they are murdered. They don’t care if they’re assaulted. They don’t care about their victimization.

    And, because of that, we haven’t responded the way a just society, a decent society is supposed to respond when you see abuse and murder and rape and misconduct.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, if you had your opportunity, given where things are at right now, what is the one — what’s the most important thing that needs to happen?

    BRYAN STEVENSON: Can I do two?


    BRYAN STEVENSON: I will — the two things that I would do, I would commit to reducing the prison population by 5,000 people. Just put out an arbitrary number like that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Where do those people go?

    BRYAN STEVENSON: They will go home. We have 5,000 people in our jails and prisons that could go home tomorrow that wouldn’t in any way threaten public safety.

    And you know who could help us identify those 5,000 are the wardens at these prisons. If you said to any warden in the state of Alabama, can you identify 50, 100, 200 people in your prison who you think could go home tomorrow, wouldn’t be a problem, most of them could do it in a heartbeat.

    We could get to that 5,000 number just like that. And then we could take the money we save, the significant money that we save, and invest in better caregiving, better management. You have to have people running prisons that care about the incarcerated, that are smart, that aren’t bullies, that aren’t reactionary, that aren’t kind of vindictive. And then you could begin to see improved conditions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Are you more optimistic nationally, when you look at the large picture?

    BRYAN STEVENSON: I’m cautiously optimistic.

    But punishment is a local issue. And the national discourse will only have an impact on places like Alabama if people in Alabama step up. But I am generally hopeful. I don’t think it’s going to happen by itself, and what I’m worried about is that Congress might pass a few reforms, we might see reforms here and there, and we’re going to declare victory, and three years from now, the prison population will have decreased by 1 percent, and we will still be the most punitive nation on the planet.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Stevenson now has a broader educational project under way, erecting markers to remind people of a history often ignored, and his group is collecting samples of earth from the sites of lynchings, with an aim toward creating memorials around the state.

    I asked Stevenson what drives him.

    BRYAN STEVENSON: Well, I think, when you see what I see, you don’t have a choice. I think, if most people saw what I see, they’d have the same instinct, they’d have the same idea, that we have to fix this, because it’s unconscionable.

    We have kids, 15- and 16-year- old kids, that we’re still putting in adult jails and prisons in Alabama. And what happens to those children is that they get abused, they get assaulted. And I don’t think that there’s a decent person watching this program that, if they saw that, wouldn’t feel like, we have got to stop that.

    From Montgomery, Alabama, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the “PBS NewsHour.”

    The post Top civil rights lawyer says U.S. criminal justice reforms are falling short appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Brothers of top Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine, who was killed in an attack in Syria, mourn over his coffin during his funeral in Beirut's southern suburbs, Lebanon, May 13, 2016. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi - RTX2E7JC

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     JUDY WOODRUFF: Word came today that the man believed to be the top military commander of Hezbollah was killed in Syria. The Iranian-backed group has fought against the U.S. and Israel since it was founded in the early 1980s. And it has joined forces with the Assad regime in the Syrian war.

    “NewsHour” special correspondent Jane Ferguson has our report.

    JANE FERGUSON: People in this suburb of Beirut have been to many funerals since the beginning of the war in Syria, but none as big as this.

    Mustafa Badreddine was believed to be the main military commander of Hezbollah forces fighting in Syria. In life, he was a villain to America and its allies. In death, he is a hero to these people.

    In Hezbollah neighborhoods of Beirut, the funerals of war dead feel like celebrations. Women throw rice and rose petals on the coffin as it passes.

    “I know there are martyrs in Syria,” this woman says, “but we like that and we are happy because we give martyrdom. If we didn’t go to Syria, ISIS would come to here.”

    MAN: When the name of this dead man is in our minds, we will always remember that we have to fight. We have to get revenge from those who killed him.

    JANE FERGUSON: Badreddine was believed to have been involved in the devastating attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, which killed 241 Americans. He was also indicted for the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a huge truck bomb in 2005.

    He was killed in Syria leading Hezbollah’s military campaign, propping up the group’s ally President Bashar al-Assad. Young men from here often go to fight in Syria for Hezbollah, many returning in coffins. It’s a heavy price the group is paying for its involvement in the war.

    The death of this commander, however, is the biggest loss to the group since his predecessor was killed in 2008. Mustafa Badreddine, according to Hezbollah, had said just a few months ago that he would only return to Lebanon from Syria either victorious or as a martyr.

    Professor Daniel Byman of Georgetown University says he was a founding member of Hezbollah.

    DANIEL BYMAN, Georgetown University: Badreddine’s death is a big blow to Hezbollah. He’s someone who was there at the founding of the movement. He’s been with it in leadership positions, really the tip of the sphere almost everywhere they have been active, whether it’s been in Kuwait, in Lebanon, now in Syria.

    And this is a tremendous blow. It has repeatedly lost senior leaders in its history, and it has repeatedly emerged strong and committed. So, it’s not likely to change things in the country.

    JANE FERGUSON: It’s not clear who was responsible for his death. Badreddine would have been a target for both Israel and extremist groups fighting in Syria, like ISIS.

    Hezbollah leaders say Badreddine was killed in a huge explosion in Damascus and that they’re investigating who was behind the attack. They expect to make an announcement in the coming days.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Jane Ferguson in Beirut.

    The post Hezbollah’s top military leader killed in huge blast in Syria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Department of Justice (DOJ) logo is pictured on a wall after a news conference to discuss alleged fraud by Russian Diplomats in New York December 5, 2013.     REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW) - RTX1657T

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The battle over the use of school facilities by transgender students has already flared up in North Carolina and in other communities, including in Southeastern Virginia and a Chicago suburb.

    But the directive to all U.S. public schools from the Obama administration spreads it across the nation.

    Hari Sreenivasan is in our New York studios tonight, and has more on the reaction and possible impact.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: I’m joined by two people who have been involved on both sides of this issue.

    Alex Myers is an English teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy, a private school in New Hampshire. He’s also an author and speaks frequently about gender identity. He’s transgender, came out in high school and was the first openly transgender student to attend Harvard. And Jeremy Tedesco is senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, a faith-based legal advocacy group. It represents several groups of parents that oppose allowing students to use school bathrooms based on gender identity.

    Alex, let me start with you.

    Why is this so significant to you?

    ALEX MYERS, Teacher, Phillips Exeter Academy: This is really a moment of recognition that is unparalleled.

    I think the transgender community has been existing at the margins not only of mainstream society, but also in some ways of the LGBT community. And President Obama’s and Loretta Lynch’s statement earlier this week really bring us out of the shadows and into the mainstream.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Jeremy Tedesco, your organization is involved in two different lawsuits in Chicago and in North Carolina to try to prevent these types of policies from rolling out.

    Are there a lot of students not transgender who are trying to go into the other bathrooms, so to speak? I mean, why is this a step too far?

    JEREMY TEDESCO, Alliance Defending Freedom: Well, I really appreciate you having us on. And I’m glad we can be on PBS and have a civil discourse about this whole issue.

    The reality is, ADF, Alliance Defending Freedom, where I work, has been pushing out policies to school districts for several years now, policies that are promote a compassionate alternative that meets the needs of every student at the school.

    So, our policy says students who for whatever reason are uncomfortable using the locker room or shower or restroom designated for their biological sex should be given alternative facilities, single-stall facilities or whatever is available at the school. Almost all schools have those available.

    But they shouldn’t allow the privacy rights of other students to be violated in providing those accommodations. There’s interests, rights on both sides of the equation in the bathroom and locker room contexts. Students have an expectation of privacy in those facilities.

    And the Obama administration is completely trampling those rights by directing schools to just let students of one sex into the locker rooms and restrooms of students of the other sex.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alex, how is a school supposed to strike this balance to try to protect the privacy of all students, as Jeremy says, not just the transgender ones?

    ALEX MYERS: Well, I first think that the basic thing a school needs to do is educate and train faculty, administration and students, just so people are aware.

    I think a lot of the problems are actually caused by ignorance, rather than actual incidents. But in terms of privacy and in terms of what was just outlined, I think that the problem with having a separate single-gender, single-use bathroom is that you’re really mandating that something that sounds like separate but equal, when we want is for people to coexist together, for there not to be segregation of any kind.

    In terms of privacy rights, I think you might be looking at modifying particularly locker room facilities to allow every student, cisgender and transgender, for more privacy. And I think that what you will find largely is that transgender want to go into restrooms, want to go into locker rooms, they want to use those facilities, they want to use discreetly, and they value their own privacy.

    And they are not likely to intrude on others. I would also add that I find I rather ironic that, at this point in time, the conservative movement is mentioning privacy as a right, when, for so many years, they enacted and enforced sodomy laws, which had no respect for people’s privacy.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Jeremy, in the joint letter today from the DOJ and the Department of Education, there were examples of school districts from Alaska to Kansas City to Massachusetts that all have created policies in figuring a way through this without any lawsuits.

    Why aren’t these fixes good enough? Sometimes, it was as simple as a stall with a door or a curtain.

    JEREMY TEDESCO: Well, if you put a stall — for instance, the Illinois lawsuit, where we filed the lawsuit against the Department of Education and a school district outside of Chicago, they did install a few privacy stalls inside the girls locker room, but that doesn’t solve anything, because those stalls are inside the locker room.

    And the biologically male student has to walk through the locker room while girls are changing for P.E. class. They are in a state of undress. That happens every day of the year, every year of school, because P.E. is a mandatory class at that school.

    So these girls have to suffer the humiliation, the degradation, the affront to their dignity and the privacy violations on an everyday basis in the school. It doesn’t solve the problem. See, privacy rights say that a person of the opposite sex, they stop at the door to the locker room, not at some door to some private stall inside the locker room.

    The bar is at the door to the locker room. And that’s — just that’s consistent with the expectation of privacy that we have always had in our society when it comes to the use of these kinds of facilities. And, again, that right is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

    And so what the Obama administration is promoting is something that tramples the privacy rights and the dignity of girls at schools across the country and boys. You know, in Illinois, we have 63 student plaintiffs, 130-plus plaintiffs altogether. These people, you know, they’re religious, they’re not religious.

    You know, privacy is something that cuts across religious and ideological lines, and these people just want their children’s right to privacy protected by their schools and by the federal government.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alex, what do you say to those parents who are in this lawsuit?

    ALEX MYERS: I think that the time has come to be a little bit more educated and a little bit more open.

    I really have not heard of any incidents of harassment or assault. I’m not aware of there being any legitimate problems that have been voiced by cisgender students. And, again, I think that the majority, the vast majority, the overwhelming majority of transgender people who use public facilities want to do so with respect to their own privacy and their own discretion.

    It simply has not risen to any attention that I know of that there’s been any problem with the use there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Jeremy Tedesco, on your site, there — you also seem to be drawing almost an inference that allowing transgender people these rights is the equivalent to shielding sexual predators.

    The examples that you cite on the blog repeatedly seem like either people who are political activists or perhaps sexual predators. Are you trying to equate the two groups?

    JEREMY TEDESCO: Well, of course not.

    And we don’t think that providing access to people who are truly struggling with gender identity issues is going to be a safety problem. The problem is that these laws allow people to simply self-identify as the opposite sex and gain access.

    You can’t tell me, based on all the evidence that’s out there, that people who have, you know, unconscionable purposes, that want to, you know, take advantage of these kind of policies, use them as a ruse to gain access will not do so.

    I mean, look, there is a criminal element out there that will do that. We need to recognize that, as a culture, but we also need to recognize the privacy problems. You know, the idea that there hasn’t been any kind of report of some kind of safety problem in a particular situation or a particular school really doesn’t respond to the problem.

    The problem is the privacy violation, the incredible amount of uncomfortability, humiliation, degradation and embarrassment that our clients in Illinois, for instance, the girls in the locker room, experience on a daily basis.

    Some of the girls in our lawsuit aren’t using the restroom very much at school. They’re holding it all day long. We have another girl who wears her gym clothes under her regular clothes, so she doesn’t have to undress in the locker room.

    And then she has to wear soiled, dirty gym clothes the rest of the day just so she can try to preserve her privacy and her dignity in the locker room. We shouldn’t be doing that as a culture.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alex Myers, there is not necessarily a card that you get when you’re transgender. How do you get over that sort of identification problem, when a transgender individual or any individual wants to identify and go into an opposite locker room? What’s going to be the simple rule that works at the parks and recreation department or high school?

    ALEX MYERS: I think that you find most transgender people use the bathroom that they feel matches their gender identity and that they can pass in, so that the one that they’re going to walk into and not be kicked out of, the one that they’re going to walk into and not cause an incident.

    It really takes special circumstances for a transgender person to walk into a space where they know they are going to be rejected. That’s when the fear of harassment and abuse, in my mind, comes to light.

    And I would simply say that there simply hasn’t been a case of any abuse or harassment or any problem of a person being a predator in these spaces posing as a transgender person. Transgender people have been using public facilities that match their gender identity for years and years, and that simply hasn’t happened yet.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Jeremy Tedesco, finally, I want to ask you. There are going to be people watching this interview thinking to themselves almost everything that the plaintiffs in these cases that he’s representing, if you just substituted the word transgender with race, this sounds like what people said 50 years ago.

    JEREMY TEDESCO: Well, there is simply no comparison.

    I mean, here’s the thing. Title IX, which is at the source of all of this, which, by the way, oh, the Obama administration is radically reinterpreting and just ignoring Congress’ will by forcing its political agenda on the country, Title IX, for over 40 years, has said that schools can comply with Title IX by having separate facilities, locker rooms, restrooms and showers for girls and for boys.

    That is not the equivalent of race discrimination, and the suggestion that it is, is just a tactic to try to get people to shut up and not express their opinions about this kind of a topic. It’s not the same thing. It’s been recognized under the law for 40-plus years. It’s a entirely rationale and reasonable division between the sexes in those kinds of facilities.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Jeremy Tedesco, Alex Myers, thank you both.

    ALEX MYERS: Thank you.

    JEREMY TEDESCO: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thanks to you all.

    And there is much more online, including our report this week on how the U.S. military is working on its new rules for transgender service members. That’s on our home page.

    Plus, you can watch “Frontline”‘s full documentary, “Growing Up Trans.” That is streaming now at PBS.org/Frontline.

    The post The lines are drawn in national debate over transgender bathroom access appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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