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

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    BEIJING — President-elect Donald Trump is unapologetic about roiling diplomatic waters with his decision to speak on the phone with Taiwan’s leader, a breach of long-standing tradition that risks enmity from China.

    The U.S. severed diplomatic ties with the self-governing island in 1979 but has maintained close unofficial relations and a commitment to support its defense.

    Trump’s conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen drew an irritated, although understated, response from China, as Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Saturday that the contact was “just a small trick by Taiwan” that he believed would not change U.S. policy toward China, according to Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV.

    “The one-China policy is the cornerstone of the healthy development of China-U.S. relations and we hope this political foundation will not be interfered with or damaged,” Wang was quoted as saying. Chinese officials said they lodged a complaint with the U.S. and reiterated a commitment to seeking “reunification” with the island, which they consider a renegade province.

    After the phone conversation Friday, Trump tweeted that Tsai “CALLED ME.” He also groused about the reaction to the call: “Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.”

    The U.S. shifted diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 1979. But the governments in Washington and Taipei have maintained close unofficial ties and deep economic and defense relations. The U.S. is required by law to provide Taiwan with weapons to maintain its defense.

    Since 2009, the Obama administration has approved $14 billion in arms sales to Taiwan.

    The call was the starkest example yet of how Trump has flouted diplomatic conventions since he won the Nov. 8 election. He has apparently undertaken calls with foreign leaders without guidance customarily given by the State Department, which oversees U.S. diplomacy.

    “President-elect Trump is just shooting from the hip, trying to take phone calls of congratulatory messages from leaders around the world without consideration for the implications,” said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

    Over the decades, the status of Taiwan has been one of the most sensitive issues in U.S.-China relations. China regards Taiwan as part of its territory to be retaken by force, if necessary, if it seeks independence. It would regard any recognition of a Taiwanese leader as a head of state as unacceptable.

    Taiwan split from the Chinese mainland in 1949. The U.S. policy acknowledges the Chinese view over sovereignty, but considers Taiwan’s status as unsettled.

    Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said Trump’s conversation does not signal any change to long-standing U.S. policy on cross-strait issues.

    The Taiwanese presidential office said Trump and Tsai discussed issues affecting Asia and the future of U.S. relations with Taiwan. “The (Taiwanese) president is looking forward to strengthening bilateral interactions and contacts as well as setting up closer cooperative relations,” the statement said.

    Tsai also told Trump that she hoped the U.S. would support Taiwan in its participation in international affairs, the office said, in an apparent reference to China’s efforts to isolate Taiwan from global institutions such as the United Nations.

    Taiwan’s presidential office spokesman, Alex Huang, said separately that Taiwan’s relations with China and “healthy” Taiwan-U.S. relations can proceed in parallel. “There is no conflict” in that, he said.

    China’s foreign ministry said Beijing lodged “solemn representations” with the U.S. over the call.

    “It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory,” Geng Shuang, a ministry spokesman, said in a statement. “The government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing China.”

    China is likely to be trying to identify whether this signals any intent on the part of Trump to alter long-standing U.S. policy toward Taiwan, Glaser said.

    “They will hope that this is a misstep, but I think privately, they will definitely seek to educate this incoming president and ensure that he understands the sensitivity of Taiwan,” she said.

    Last month, Trump had a call with Chinese President Xi Jinping during which Trump’s office described him as saying he believed the two would have “one of the strongest relationships for both countries.”

    Despite China’s muted response Saturday, concern about Trump’s policy toward China is growing, said Shi Yinhong of Renmin University in Beijing, one of China’s best-known international relations scholars.

    Tsai was elected in January and took office in May. The traditional independence-leaning policies of her party have strained relations with Beijing.

    The call with Trump could “convince people in Taiwan that the island can establish good relations with the U.S. and encourage (Tsai) to continue to resist pressure from Beijing,” Shi said.

    In Beijing, a U.S. business group urged the new U.S. administration to respect the status quo.

    “The new administration needs to get up to speed quickly on the historical tensions and complex dynamics of the region,” said James Zimmerman, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

    Lai reported from Taipei, Taiwan. Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire in New York, Matthew Pennington and Darlene Superville in Washington, and news researcher Henry Hou in Beijing contributed to this report.

    The post Trump shrugs off criticism over Taiwan call appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Supporters wave flags during a rally led by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in downtown Rome, Italy October 29, 2016. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo - RTSTT5D

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:  Italians vote tomorrow in a referendum to change their post- World War II constitution in the hopes of alleviating the gridlock that plagues the country’s central government.  Italy’s prime minister for most of the past three years, Matteo Renzi, says he’ll resign if the referendum fails.

    “NewsHour Weekend” special correspondent Christopher Livesay joins me from Rome to discuss the referendum and its potential impact on the European Union.

    Christopher, what are the driving forces behind “yes” on the referendum, let’s change the way the government works?  And what’s the driving forces behind “no,” let’s not do that?

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY, NEWSHOUR WEEKEND SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, so, the idea behind voting yes is quite simple.  It’s to change the constitution, to ultimately streamline the political system here.  Italy is notoriously difficult to govern.  It’s had 63 governments in the last 70 years.

    One of the main reasons for that is, if you want to pass a law, it tends to get stuck between both a senate and a house.  And the idea would be to shrink the senate so you make the house a little more powerful, and you can get a law through that way and generate more stability in the Italian government.  And with more governmental stability, the idea is you would have more economic stability as well.

    The people voting “no” on this are upset with the powers this would give to the prime minister.  The constitution in Italy, as you mentioned, came after World War II.  You have to think about who was in charge in Italy during World War II and before World War II.  That was none other than the dictator Benito Mussolini.

    So, the constitution was written in a way to keep the prime minister from becoming too powerful, but in the process, it’s generated a lot of gridlock.  There’s still a large portion of the Italian electorate that’s still undecided.  It’s about 30 percent of Italians still don’t know two which way they’re going to vote on this thing.

    ALISON STEWART: One of the things that’s interesting about this election is the domino effect it could have, if Renzi does, indeed, resign, and then it opens it up for others to take place, take his place.  Obviously, the Five Star Movement is the one we’re hearing a lot about.

    Tell us a little bit about the Five Star Movement, who supports it, and who its leader is.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:  It’s a catch-all party.  They tend to oppose anything that the government proposes, but one thing that we can say about them is that they’re populist, they’re anti-establishment, and they’re anti-euro.

    The leader of this party is a charismatic stand-up comic by the name of Beppe Grillo.  He is sort of gleefully vulgar and has a way of just connecting with people, unlike any other politician on the scene right now.  That might ring a bell with viewers in the United States.

    Beppe Grillo has proposed giving Italians a referendum on their membership to the euro zone, and that could send some serious economic shockwaves all across the common currency area.

    ALISON STEWART: Christopher Livesay from Italy — thank you so much.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:  Thanks for having me.

    The post Italian vote could amend post-war constitution appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    austria

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    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: In Europe, anti- establishment, populist political parties are on the rise not only in Italy, as we discussed earlier in the broadcast, but also in France, England, Germany and Austria.

    Austrians vote in their presidential election tomorrow, which is a do-over of the election held in May that was nullified over voting irregularities. The left-leaning independent candidate, Alexander Van der Bellen, is running against Norbert Hofer of the right wing Freedom Party, who opposes benefits for migrants and is critical of the European Union.

    Francois Murphy is the bureau chief for “Reuters” in Vienna, and he joins me now to discuss this election.

    Francois, in every article about the Austrian election, you also read a sentence about Brexit, the U.K. exit from Europe, and about the election of the Donald Trump as president of the United States.

    Is there a sense that Austria will follow in this line of rejecting establishment parties and people and go anti-establishment?

    FRANCOIS MURPHY, REUTERS: Well, you could also argue that it’s actually Britain and America that were following Austria since, as you mentioned, this is a re-run of an election that was first held in May. And in May, the far-right candidate Norbert Hofer came very, very close to winning.

    So, in a way, it’s very hard to say which way this wave is headed in.

    ALISON STEWART: Where are the lines divided in the country? Who’s voting for whom?

    FRANCOIS MURPHY: There is actually a very similar picture to what we have since seen in Britain and in the United States. Data from the original rerun in May shows that you had blue-collar workers largely voting for Norbert Hofer, the far-right candidate, was the highly educated, for example, were largely backing Alexander Van der Bellen, the former leader of the Green Party.

    ALISON STEWART: Francois, is there anti-E.U. sentiment involved in the Austrian election?

    FRANCOIS MURPHY: I’m not sure it’s fair to say that this is driven by anti-E.U. sentiment. In fact, the far-right candidate, Norbert Hofer, said Austria could hold their own vote on leaving the European Union within a year and that hasn’t gone down too well in Austria, where most people, according to opinion polls, feel that the country should stay within the E.U.

    STEWART: If Norbert Hofer should win, what could he do? What changes could he make?

    FRANCOIS MURPHY: So, in Austria, the president traditionally plays a largely ceremonial role. The pretty powers, however, are quite broadly defined, and it’s possible to interpret those in a larger way.

    And that’s what Norbert Hofer has said he intends to do. He has said that he would dismiss a government that behaved in a certain way. He’s given a couple of examples, at least. One is if the government were to raise taxes. Another is if a government allowed another influx of migrants like the one we saw here just over a year ago where, at the time, there were no I.D. checks for example of people coming through and he says that if something like that were to happen again, he would dismiss the government.

    ALISON STEWART: Francois Murphy of “Reuters” — thanks for joining us from Vienna.

    FRANCOIS MURPHY: Thank you.

    The post Populist politics play out in Austria’s presidential election appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein speaks with media and others gathered at City Hall during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston - RTSJLG0

    Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein speaks with media and others gathered at City Hall during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 25, 2016. Photo by Bryan Woolston/Reuters

    HARRISBURG, Pa. — Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is taking her bid for a statewide recount of Pennsylvania’s Nov. 8 presidential election to federal court.

    After announcing Stein and recount supporters were dropping their case in state court, lawyer Jonathan Abady said they will seek an emergency federal court order Monday.

    “Make no mistake — the Stein campaign will continue to fight for a statewide recount in Pennsylvania,” Abady said in a statement Saturday night. “We are committed to this fight to protect the civil and voting rights of all Americans.”

    He said barriers to a recount in Pennsylvania are pervasive and the state court system is ill-equipped to address the problem.

    Stein has spearheaded a recount effort in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, three states with a history of backing Democrats for president that were narrowly and unexpectedly won by Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

    [Watch Video]

    Stein has framed the campaign as an effort to explore whether voting machines and systems had been hacked and the election result manipulated. Stein’s lawyers, however, have offered no evidence of hacking in Pennsylvania’s election, and the state Republican Party and Trump had asked the court to dismiss the state court case.

    The recount-campaign decision came two days before a state court hearing was scheduled in the case. Saturday’s court filing to withdraw the case said the Green Party-backed voters who filed it “are regular citizens of ordinary means” and cannot afford the $1 million bond ordered by the court by 5 p.m. Monday.

    Meanwhile, Green Party-backed efforts to force recounts and analyze election software in scattered precincts were continuing.

    A recount began Thursday in Wisconsin, while a recount could begin this week in Michigan.

    Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania was particularly stunning: the state’s fifth-most electoral votes are a key stepping stone to the White House, and no Republican presidential candidate had captured the state since 1988.

    In seeking the recount, Stein has noted hackers’ probing of election targets in other states and hackers’ accessing the emails of the Democratic National Committee and several Clinton staffers. U.S. security officials have said they believe Russian hackers orchestrated the email hacks, something Russia has denied.

    Lawyers for Trump and the Pennsylvania Republican Party argued there was no evidence, or even an allegation, that tampering with the state’s voting systems had occurred. Further, Pennsylvania law does not allow a court-ordered recount, they said.

    The state case also had threatened Pennsylvania’s ability to certify its presidential electors by the Dec. 13 federal deadline, Republican lawyers argued.

    GOP lawyer Lawrence Tabas said Saturday the case had been meant “solely for purposes to delay the Electoral College vote in Pennsylvania for President-Elect Trump.”

    The state’s top elections official, Secretary of State Pedro Cortes, a Democrat, has said there was no evidence of any cyberattacks or irregularities in the election. And any recount would change few votes, Cortes predicted.

    The post Green Party taking bid for election recount to federal court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump is threatening to impose heavy taxes on U.S. companies that move jobs overseas and still try to sell their products to Americans.

    But the plan could drive up prices for U.S. businesses and consumers and risk setting off a trade war — if it’s legal to begin with.

    In a series of early-morning tweets Sunday, Trump vowed a 35 percent tax on products sold inside the U.S. by any business that fired American workers and built a new factory or plant in another country.

    Trump campaigned on a vow to help American workers but also to reduce taxes and regulations on businesses.

    Trump tweets “there will be a tax on our soon to be strong border of 35 percent for these companies wanting to sell their product, cars, A.C. units, etc., back across the border.”

    He says companies should be “forewarned prior to making a very expensive mistake.”

    Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, says Trump would face a potent legal challenge if he tried to impose taxes, known as tariffs, on specific companies without congressional approval.

    Hufbauer also doubts that Trump could identify a group of companies —those that move jobs overseas, then ship goods back into America — for special tariffs. “I’m skeptical,” he says, predicting that courts would block such a move.

    University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers saw another problem with Trump’s plan: His proposed tariffs would only hit U.S. companies that build plants overseas. They wouldn’t apply to foreign firms that ship goods to the U.S. “Tariffs are one thing,” Wolfers tweeted. “Tariffs that attack only on U.S. firms are another altogether.”

    Trump made the comments three days after he announced that appliance maker Carrier had agreed to reverse its decision to ship 800 jobs from an Indiana factory to Mexico.

    During the presidential campaign, he repeatedly threatened to impose tariffs — 35 percent on Mexican imports, 45 percent on Chinese. Tariffs are meant to give homegrown companies a price edge by making their foreign competitors’ products more expensive — and to punish foreign countries for unfair trade practices.

    Since Trump’s election, his team has described tariffs as a potential tool to be used to pry concessions from America’s trading partners. “Tariffs are part of the negotiation,” Wilbur Ross, an investment banker slated to become Trump’s Commerce secretary, told CNBC last week.

    Tariffs could prove costly. They are imposed at the border, and importers would likely try to pass along as much of the cost as possible to their customers.

    A 45 percent tariff on Chinese-made goods could drive up U.S. retail prices on those goods by an average of about 10 percent, Capital Economics has calculated. Consumers would probably have to pay up because there are few alternatives to Chinese-made for many products. China, for instance, produces about 70 percent of the world’s laptops and cellphones.

    Taxing foreign goods could also start a trade war. The Global Times, a Chinese newspaper, has already warned that China could retaliate by limiting sales of U.S. cars and iPhones and by ordering aircraft from Europe’s Airbus instead of America’s Boeing.

    In 2009, the Obama administration taxed Chinese tires to protect American tire makers from a surge in imports. Beijing retaliated with a tax of up to 105 percent on U.S. chicken parts.

    Researchers at the Peterson Institute found that the tire tariffs probably saved 1,200 jobs in the U.S. tire industry. But higher tire prices cost American consumers an extra $1.1 billion — more than $900,000 for every job saved.

    He says companies should be “forewarned prior to making a very expensive mistake.”

    The post Trump threatens payback for U.S. companies that move abroad appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former Republican U.S. presidential nominee Mitt Romney pauses as he delivers a speech criticizing current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah March 3, 2016.   REUTERS/Jim Urquhart  - RTS963K

    Former Republican U.S. presidential nominee Mitt Romney pauses as he delivers a speech criticizing current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 3, 2016. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

    NEW YORK — As President-elect Donald Trump stood onstage during the debut night of his “Thank you” tour and teased that he was about to announce a surprise Cabinet pick, some in the Ohio crowd bellowed: “No Romney! No Romney!”

    Trump’s administration selections have largely been cheered by close allies and supporters. Many have deep ties to Washington and Wall Street that would seem contradictory to the populist, outsider campaign Trump ran with a promise to “drain the swamp” of corruption and elitism in government. But the possible selection of Romney, who is on Trump’s shortlist for Secretary of State despite being a forceful critic throughout the campaign, has been met with trepidation from many of the working-class voters that propelled the Republican to his astonishing victory.

    Kim Doss loudly cheered Trump at the Cincinnati rally but will not forgive Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, for the “witch hunt” he held “to make sure Trump wasn’t the nominee.”

    “I think he went out of his way to make that happen, which totally backfired on him,” said Doss, a 46-year-old accountant from Hebron, Kentucky. “He obviously said some really ugly things about (Trump).”

    Some of Trump’s most prominent allies, including his campaign manager, have taken the unprecedented step of using national television interviews to bash Romney. And nearly a dozen Trump backers who attended the Ohio victory lap vehemently denounced Romney as a choice to be the nation’s top diplomat.

    Rally-goer Josh Kanowitz said he was willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt for some of his establishment-friendly picks — including former Goldman Sachs partner Steve Mnuchin for Secretary of the Treasury — but he visibly recoiled at the suggestion that Romney would be a Team-of-Rivals-style selection from Trump.

    Romney, the GOP’s 2012 president nominee, eviscerated Trump in a March speech, delivering broadsides against the New York businessman who he deemed “a con man” and “a fake.”

    “His domestic policies would lead to recession,” said Romney. “His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president and his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.”

    Unlike many establishment Republicans, Romney never wavered in his opposition to Trump during the campaign and did not reveal whether he voted for him. Despite that, Trump, who deeply prizes loyalty and rarely forgives foes, summoned him to his New Jersey golf club last month to interview for Secretary of State. After the meeting, Trump was said to be taken by the way Romney “looks the part” of a globe-trotting diplomat, according to people close to the transition process.

    In nominating Romney, Trump would be signaling his willingness to heal campaign wounds and reach out to traditional Republicans who were deeply skeptical of his experience and temperament. The president-elect has added at least one other former critic to his team: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who attacked the businessman for being slow to denounce support from white supremacists, was Trump’s pick to be ambassador to the United Nations.

    Trump is expected to announce his choice for Secretary of State in the coming days. Romney is one of the favorites for the position, joining ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. Giuliani had been the initial front-runner but questions about his overseas business ties — as well as his own public campaigning for the job — are said to have given Trump pause. It remains possible a darkhorse candidate could emerge.

    Trump met with Romney again last week over dinner, a remarkable moment of public courtship after which the 2012 nominee addressed reporters and did a stunning about-face on Trump, declaring that the evening with the president-elect was “enlightening, and interesting, and engaging” and that he was optimistic that “America’s best days are ahead of us.”

    The reality TV-style auditions have stirred speculation that it could be a Trump-approved attempt to humiliate a prominent Republican who staunchly opposed him throughout the presidential campaign.

    “People feel betrayed to think that Gov. Romney, who went out of his way to question the character and the intellect and the integrity of Donald Trump, now our president-elect, would be given the most significant cabinet post of all,” said Kellyanne Conway, a senior Trump aide. She said Romney was “nothing but awful” to Trump for a year.

    Conway’s opposition to Romney is also said to be shared by Steve Bannon, the controversial conservative media executive who will serve as Trump’s White House senior adviser. And Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House who was an outspoken Trump ally, has mocked Romney for “sucking up” to Trump and said he could “think of 20 other people” better suited to be Secretary of State.

    Not all of the president-elect’s supporters believe that Romney would be a hard sell to Trump’s base. John James, a 55-year-old writer from Cincinnati, said Romney would be “fantastic to represent America” and suggested that “sometimes you need people who don’t agree with you 100 percent because they give a different perspective.”

    Associated Press writer Lisa Cornwell contributed reporting from Cincinnati.

    The post Trump faces pushback from base, allies over Romney musings appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People watch the cortege carrying the ashes of Cuba's former President Fidel Castro drive toward Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, December 4, 2016. Photo By Ivan Alvarado/Reuters

    People watch the cortege carrying the ashes of Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro drive toward Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, December 4, 2016. Photo By Ivan Alvarado/Reuters

    Fidel Castro was laid to rest on Sunday during a ceremony that capped nine days of mourning in Cuba.

    Castro, who ruled the island nation for almost a half-century, was carried in a coffin strewn with a Cuban flag and led by a military caravan that weaved through crowds stationed along the two-mile route in the city of Santiago. Some of the thousands who attended shouted out Castro’s name along the route.

    In the capital city of Havana, where Castro lived out his final years, a 21-gun salute could be heard echoing from military canons, according to Reuters.

    The procession ended at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery where Castro’s ashes were interred during a private 90-minute ceremony closed to the general public and international media, the Associated Press reported.

    A woman reacts after watching the cortege carrying the ashes of Cuba's former President Fidel Castro drive past toward Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, December 4, 2016. Photos By Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

    A woman reacts after watching the cortege carrying the ashes of Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro drive past toward Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, December 4, 2016. Photos By Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

    Shortly before the ceremony, Cuban officials also cancelled plans to broadcast the ceremony on television.

    Castro stepped down from power at least eight years before his death after an intestinal illness. He died at the age of 90 on Nov. 25, though the cause of his death was not released.

    Raul Castro said Saturday his brother’s name and image would not be memorialized in public.

    “The leader of the revolution rejected any manifestation of a cult of personality and was consistent in that through the last hours of his life, insisting that, once dead, his name and likeness would never be used on institutions, streets, parks or other public sites, and that busts, statutes or other forms of tribute would never be erected,” he said.

    See below for more photos of the procession.

    Soldiers stand in the back of a truck while driving past a billboard with a photograph of Cuba's former President Fidel Castro before Castro's ashes are to drive toward Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, December 4, 2016. Photo By Ivan Alvarado/Reuters

    Soldiers stand in the back of a truck while driving past a billboard with a photograph of Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro before Castro’s ashes are to drive toward Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, December 4, 2016. Photo By Ivan Alvarado/Reuters

    A soldier stands as he guards the cortege carrying Cuba's former President Fidel Castro's ashes to a cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba December 4, 2016. Photo By Carlos Barria/Reuters

    A soldier stands as he guards the cortege carrying Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro’s ashes to a cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba December 4, 2016. Photo By Carlos Barria/Reuters

    People watch the cortege carrying the ashes of Cuba's former President Fidel Castro drive toward Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, December 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado - RTSUKS7

    People watch the cortege carrying the ashes of Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro drive toward Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, December 4, 2016. Photo By Ivan Alvarado/Reuters

    Soldiers stand guard next to a boulder where the ashes of Cuba's former President Fidel Castro Photo By Marcelino Vazquez via REUTERS

    Soldiers stand guard next to a boulder where the ashes of Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro Photo By Marcelino Vazquez via REUTERS

    Cuba's President Raul Castro (C) places the box containing the ashes of Cuba's former President Fidel Castro into a boulder at the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, in Santiago de Cuba, December 4, 2016. Photo By Marcelino Vazquez via Reuters

    Cuba’s President Raul Castro (C) places the box containing the ashes of Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro into a boulder at the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, in Santiago de Cuba, December 4, 2016. Photo By Marcelino Vazquez via Reuters

    The post Fidel Castro laid to rest in private ceremony after nine days of mourning appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Reproductive rights activists opposed to Donald Trump’s nominee for health secretary have hit upon a potent rallying cry: the cost of birth control.

    The campaign stems from a remark made back in 2012 by Georgia Congressman Tom Price, who this week was nominated to run Trump’s Department of Heath and Human Services. Back then, Price had joined other Republicans in a fierce fight to block an Obamacare mandate that insurers give women free access to contraception.

    Price said the rule was unfair to religious employers who considered it immoral for birth control to be covered under the health plans offered to their workers — and also, wholly unnecessary, because no woman he knew of had ever had trouble getting contraception when she needed it.

    “Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one,” Price said at the time, in an interview that was captured on video and has been widely circulated.

    Now that Price stands poised to shape health care coverage for millions, both activist organizations and individual women are answering his “bring me one” challenge — by bringing him their stories.

    https://twitter.com/RBraceySherman/status/803571360920260612?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

    His 2012 comment “very simply and clearly shows that Congressman Price is really out of touch with the reality of women’s lives,” said Amy Friedrich-Karnik, senior federal policy adviser for the Center for Reproductive Rights.

    Or as NARAL Pro-Choice America spokeswoman Kaylie Hanson Long put it: “That is completely contrary to the real and lived experiences of women prior to the Affordable Care Act.”

    Birth control costs range widely, but generally run anywhere from $120 a year for the least expensive pills to $1,000 for an IUD. A survey commissioned by Planned Parenthood in 2010 found that 1 in 3 women had struggled to pay for prescription birth control at some point in their lives.

    “This notion that there’s no woman being left behind — when I watched the video, I actually yelled out to the computer, ‘I could show you a thousand [women],’” said Dr. Geetha Narayani Fink, an OB-GYN who’s a member of Physicians for Reproductive Health.

    Price has tried to overturn the Affordable Care Act as a congressman, and if confirmed, he’s expected to implement the Trump administration’s plans to dismantle the health care law. But Price wouldn’t even need to repeal the legislation to get rid of no-cost birth control: That would just require a bureaucratic maneuver, without a vote in Congress, though that would likely take months.

    Price’s voting record raises other red flags as well for reproductive rights advocates.

    Last year, the Republican lawmaker (who is also a former orthopedic surgeon) voted against legislation that would protect employees from being fired for using contraception or seeking an abortion. And in 2013, he voted for a budget resolution to be amended so that insurers could opt out of covering birth control for women for religious reasons.

    Price has also been a tenacious opponent of abortion and has co-sponsored legislation that would assign “personhood” status to a fetus.

    Neither Price’s congressional office nor Trump’s transition team returned requests for comment.

    Despite widely acknowledged problems with Obamacare, the contraception mandate has proved to be a boon for many women.

    A study published last year found that the share of insured women who got hormonal IUDs without any copays more than doubled, to 87 percent, between 2012 and 2014. Another study last year estimated that women covered by one private health insurer saved an average of $248 for an IUD and $255 annually for contraceptive pills after the rule went into effect.

    And a study published in September found that Midwestern women who did not have to shell out copays for birth control were more likely to use it — and to choose more effective methods — than those who had to pay out of pocket.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Dec. 2, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post Birth control emerges as rallying cry against Trump’s pick for health secretary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rawnda

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    By: Ivette Feliciano and Zachary Green

    IVETTE FELICIANO, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND: In the spring and summer of 1994, an ethnic cleansing campaign in Rwanda left 800,000 people dead, even while United Nations peacekeepers were on the ground and the rest of the world did virtually nothing to stop it. Toward the end of a civil war, Rwanda’s government, then run by its ethnic majority, the Hutus, systematically murdered 70 percent of the country’s ethnic minority, the Tutsis.

    As the toll of the carnage became clear, human rights groups successfully pressured the United Nations to convene the first ever international tribunal for genocide in history.

    Between 1998 and 2012, the international criminal tribunal for Rwanda convicted 62 individuals for genocide and other serious war crimes.

    Part of the story rarely told involves the brutal mass rapes of an estimated 250-thousand women, men and children during the genocide and the world’s first prosecution of rape as a war crime.

    A new documentary — “The Uncondemned” — sheds light on this atrocity and the struggle to bring justice for the rape survivors…

    Journalist Michele Mitchell directed “The Uncondemned,”which refers to the perpetrators of mass rape not held accountable until the landmark prosecution. The film revisits the events and the case that would change international law.

    FELICIANO: Why is this an important story to tell today in 2016?

    MITCHELL: Rape has been a crime of war since 1919. But it took almost 80 years for rape to be prosecuted for the first time. And the reasons why they finally prosecuted continue on to this day. And those include it happens in every conflict around the world, with all religions, and it’s almost never taken as seriously as other crimes of war.

    MITCHELL: It’s a vital story now because as we are sitting here and talking, we know that it’s going on in Syria, in Iraq, by ISIS. We know that Boko Haram is doing it. South Sudan, I could name any number of places where this is happening as we’re having this conversation.

    FELICIANO: Are there complexities about sexual violence in times of war that you think are often misunderstood?

    MITCHELL: One thing that I have consistently heard over the last three years as we were making this film is that, ‘Oh, well, rape is just something that happens in war; it’s always happened. The act of sexual violence will rip apart a family and a community, and by virtue of that, a society, for several generations. And it’s not just the shame that happens. A lot of times you are physically incapacitated after that incredibly violent act.

    FELICIANO: “The Uncondemned” focuses on the case brought against a Mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu, who was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for ordering mass murders and rapes that occurred in his township, Taba.

    Mitchell interviewed rape survivors as well as the prosecutors and aid workers who took up their cause.

    BINAIFER NOWROJEE – FORMER RESEARCHER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: They would say, ‘We begged to be killed after the rapes,’ you know, ‘Please kill us.’ A lot of the Hutu militias would say, ‘No, we are going to leave you alive so that you will die of sadness,’ And that’s with these women said: ‘We are dying of sadness.’

    FELICIANO: An American-led legal team convinced a panel of u-n judges that Akayesu had used mass rape as a form of torture.

    Pierre Prosper, then a Los Angeles assistant district attorney, was one of the prosecutors.

    Can you talk about that moment when you realized that prosecuting rape was essential to Akayesu’s case?

    PROSPER: It really became critical for us in the Akayesu case when one witness told us about an event where women were being taken back to the back of the city hall, and systemically distributed and violated, and that Akayesu was there. It became clear to us that this was really the scheme, part of the genocide, part of the torture, part of the destruction of the fabric of the society. So it was a designed plan to diminish a population.

    FELICIANO: With no legal precedents, the under-resourced and underfunded legal team had the difficult job of making the case that mass rapes are just as detrimental as murders during genocide.

    Once the trial began in 1997, there were high expectations.

    PROSPER: We had the pressure coming out of the West, whether it be New York, the United Nations, or western governments looking at us and saying are you going to win? Because they needed us to win in order to send a message to the international community that there will be accountability for genocide.

    FELICIANO: as the film recounts, prosper and the legal team convinced three Rwandan survivors to step forward and testify against Akayesu in court, sharing that many women in their town were forced to endure multiple acts of sexual violence commissioned by him.

    VICTOIRE MUKAMBANDA – SURVIVOR: I wanted to tell the story of what Akayesu did so that his crimes would become notorious in the eyes of the entire world.

    PROSPER: I remember putting witnesses on the stand, and you leave at the end of the day just emotionally drained, and you say to yourself I have just now heard the worst that I’ve ever heard in my life. The next day, the next witness comes on, and they you say no, no, today is the worst, and it was like that throughout the entire process.

    FELICIANO: How did Akayesu’s conviction and the concept of rape as a war crime, how did it change the game?

    MITCHELL: It did a couple of very important things. It set the precedent. The whole reason why we can prosecute rape as a crime against humanity, crime of war and a crime of genocide is because of the Akayesu verdict. And the other thing it did, which was really interesting, is that it took gender out of it. And that’s incredibly important, because men are raped in conflict as well.

    FELICIANO: After a 20 month trial at the Hague, in the Netherlands, the Rwanda war crimes tribunal sentenced Akayesu to life in prison.

    In the years after his precedent-setting case. International tribunals showed greater resolve in recognizing wartime rapes, such as in the tribunals that held Serbs accountable for their treatment of Bosnians in the former Yugoslavia. More recently, crimes of mass rape were prosecuted by tribunals following atrocities in Sierra Leone and in the democratic republic of Congo. But prosper believes even today the global community could be more responsive in conflicts like south Sudan.

    PROSPER: I think we’ve lost a bit of our footing, and I actually think that what happened is once the permanent international criminal court was created, people looked at that as, ‘Oh, we’ve arrived.’ And the politicians around the world said, ‘We’ve done our job, there’s this court, we need now focus on these issues.’ It creates this gap, a gap of inaction. So I think the international community needs to wake up, governments need to wake up, and realize that their responsibility continues.

    FELICIANO: A responsibility that international reporting keeps in the spotlight.

    MITCHELL: Because the men and women of the press corps who covered what happened in Bosnia and also Rwanda and covered the sexual violence and wrote about it and put it on television and kept it in the public eye, that created interest on the part of the public, who then wrote letters to the tribunals saying, “We want you to prosecute this. We’re going to be watching.” It goes all the way around to the fact that the public got involved and demanded that their leaders take this seriously, do something. So if it worked then, it can work now.”

    The post Rwanda was first to prosecute mass rape as war crime appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Downtown Albuquerque skyline at dusk. Albuquerque is the largest city in the state of New Mexico, United States. Albuquerque is known for its pleasant scenery, southwestern cuisine and International Balloon Fiesta.

    In New Mexico, a budget crisis is taking a toll on courtrooms and public defenders. Photo via Getty Images

    SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico’s grinding budget crisis is taking a toll in courtrooms where overburdened attorneys have denied legal counsel to poor defendants, at museums reeling from layoffs and admission hikes, and at state universities and colleges grappling with steep spending cuts.

    A prolonged downturn in oil and natural gas markets continued to ripple through New Mexico’s economy over the summer and into the fall, undermining state tax revenues.

    Employers across the state have shed thousands of jobs since October 2015, as more than a third of New Mexico’s oil rigs shut down.

    Fossil fuel prices are squeezing budgets in several states that rely heavily on severance taxes, such as Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming and Oklahoma — even as OPEC nations consider cutting production to boost prices.

    “They’ve had cuts, significant cuts,” said John Hicks, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers. “That’s very notable in comparison with the rest of the country to have an actual decrease in general fund taxes and general fund spending. I can’t say it’s bottomed out — it’s kind of a lower-revenue hit that is sustaining.”

    The effects are evident in New Mexico’s Lea County, an area known for its oil production. Public defenders there have declined or asked to withdraw from representing hundreds of indigent criminal defendants. They say swelling caseloads and limited funding threaten their ability to provide effective legal assistance.

    The actions prompted a standoff this week as District Court Judge Gary Clingman held the state’s chief public defender in contempt of court, and the local district attorney petitioned the New Mexico Supreme Court to intervene.

    Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur insists on his agency’s obligation to speak out when attorneys and budgets are strained.

    “We can’t continue to spread our attorneys so thin that they don’t have time to read police reports, to meet with a client, to do legal research if necessary,” he said. “This is a systemic problem.”

    The dispute threatens to taint cases that lead to convictions since defendants can argue they lacked effective representation.

    An October special legislative session culminated in budget cuts of 3 percent across the judiciary, where court-employee furloughs are under consideration and travel reimbursements have been reduced for jurors and court-ordered witnesses.

    Most state agencies are grappling with spending cuts of 5.5 percent, and they’re bracing for more belt tightening as state economists prepare to release reduced revenue estimates for the current and coming fiscal year.

    The forecast, due Monday, sets the benchmark when legislators meet in January to write a state budget for the coming fiscal year and fix shortfalls from the current year.

    Amid hiring freezes, the state workforce dwindled to 21,905 full-time positions in October, down 18 percent from mid-2008.

    Sen. Peter Wirth, the Democratic majority leader, worried cuts to the Taxation and Revenue and Cultural Affairs department would be counterproductive — limiting the state’s ability to collect money and attract tourists.

    “Here in Santa Fe — the arts, tourism — these are huge economic development drivers,” Wirth said. “We are impacting a big portion of our economy.”

    Cultural Affairs Secretary Veronica Gonzales has warned legislators the agency might have to reduce the days of operation at the state’s world-renowned network of museums and historic sites. Her agency already laid off a dozen employees this year, raised entry prices and discontinued some free Sundays at Santa Fe museums as attendance numbers dipped.

    Gov. Susana Martinez has steadfastly opposed any new taxes to close the gap. Democrats who are pushing for new revenue sources — including a gasoline tax increase — will have some new leverage come January after winning back a majority control of the Legislature.

    The Las Cruces-based New Mexico State University last summer cut nearly 40 active staff positions and scuttled the school’s equestrian team, an employee health center and a small engineering program in response to spending reductions and enrollment declines.

    University President Garrey Carruthers said a $10 million state funding cut in October has added urgency to a top-to-bottom review for new efficiencies. Academic programs could be merged and investments delayed indefinitely for student facilities and services.

    “We’re going to be more involved in surviving the cuts rather than making some strategic investments, simply because of the depth of the cuts,” he said.

    Even as revenues falter, finance officials have placed a priority on replenishing depleted operating reserves to protect the state’s credit rating. Adding to budget pressures, New Mexico is struggling to cover its annual obligation to Medicaid health care for the poor and disabled.

    The post New Mexico budget crisis rears its head in courts, colleges appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Protesters march during another night of protests over the police shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. September 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake - RTSP722

    Protesters march during another night of protests over the police shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. September 23, 2016. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    More than two months after Officer Brentley Vinson fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott, Andrew Murray, the district attorney for Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, announced Wednesday that the shooting was “justified,” alleging that Scott had been carrying a gun at the time.

    Though that account is disputed — authorities state they recovered a gun with Scott’s DNA on it at the scene, though neither dashboard nor body camera recordings definitively showed Scott carrying a gun — Murray said that police are justified in using deadly force as long as they believe that they or another person are in “imminent danger.”

    Scott’s death incited thousands to protest in North Carolina, and about 100 people took to the streets in Charlotte after Murray announced his decision not to charge Vinson. But the course that the case took is common in that police officers are rarely prosecuted for manslaughter or murder. While protesters and advocacy groups often call for prosecuting officers involved in fatal shootings, legal experts say that reforming police policy and training are much more effective than prosecutions in reducing instances of police uses of force, both fatal and nonfatal. “I think there really has to be a re-evaluation, so that we have some systemic changes.” — Judge Glenda Hatchett

    Philip Stinson, an associate professor of criminology at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, told Reuters that from 2005 to 2014, an average of five officers a year were prosecuted for manslaughter or murder. In 2015, the number rose to a dozen — out of an estimated 1,000 fatal shootings.

    Police prosecutions for shootings are rare, in part, because even with body cameras, the public tends to focus on the officer’s fear as a justification for the shooting, said Jeffrey Robinson, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Center for Justice.

    So it was more of an anomaly when on Nov. 16, Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who fatally shot Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, was charged with second-degree manslaughter.

    Castile was killed by the officer on July 6 while his girlfriend and then-four-year-old daughter were in the car. His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, broadcasted the aftermath of the incident via Facebook Live, which quickly seized both national and international attention.

    A protestor is detained by NYPD officers as people protest the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile during a march in New York City. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters.

    A protester is detained by NYPD officers as people protest the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile during a march in New York City. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

    Judge Glenda Hatchett, who is representing the Castile family, told the NewsHour that she is encouraged by the decisions of Ramsey County Prosecutor John Choi and Special Prosecutor Don Lewis, a former U.S. Department of Justice attorney, to indict Officer Yanez. But Hatchett believes there’s more work to be done beyond the courts.

    “I think there really has to be a re-evaluation, so that we have some systemic changes that, one, reduce the number of fatal police shootings, and second, will help to boost confidence in the system that a lot of people have lost,” Hatchett said. “I think that this is a very important point because this is historic. We have not seen the indictment of a police officer, as far as we’ve been able to determine, in the history of Minnesota.”

    Why prosecutions are rare

    Federal agencies have yet to release comprehensive national findings on police-involved fatal shootings. While the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) did collect and publish statistics on “arrest-related deaths” from 2003 to 2009, its data relied on information volunteered by just some of the approximately 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. In their report published in Oct. 2015, they estimated that about 400 people a year were killed by police officers, but acknowledged, in the same report, that they had identified just half of the expected number of police homicides.

    In 2015, the Washington Post and the Guardian gathered the data themselves through crowdsourcing, public records and internet databases.

    The data the Washington Post collected indicates that in 2015, among 991 fatal police-involved shootings, black men ages 18 to 29 were five times more likely to be fatally shot than their white counterparts. The Guardian in 2015 found through crowdsourced data that 1,134 Americans had been fatally shot by the police, and that young black people were killed at nine times the rate as other Americans.

    READ NEXT: When black death goes viral, it can trigger PTSD-like trauma

    For years, there has been a consistent difference along racial lines in regards to confidence in police, with white Americans having more trust in police than black Americans, according to Gallup polls. Gallup’s data has reflected a racial confidence gap for 15 years. Gallup also found a confidence gap in police between households making $75,000 or more and households making less than $30,000, with the higher-income households having greater confidence in police.

    Several legal experts also told the NewsHour that state laws, along with police bills of rights, contribute to low prosecution rates of police officers.

    In Washington state, a 30-year-old law describes a four-part test for deciding if a homicide by police is justifiable. Under this law, prosecutors need to prove that the officer acted with “malice” and not in “good faith.” Washington state defines “malice” as “evil intent” to cause harm to another person — and proving an officer was “evil” in intent can be a difficult task for any prosecutor. “People want to look at body cameras as some kind of panacea, and they’re not … [We] can photograph what’s happening. [But] nothing else has changed.” — Jeffrey Robinson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Center for Justice

    Fourteen states, including Minnesota, California, Florida, Illinois and Virginia, provide police bills of rights, which protect police officers throughout the post-homicide interrogation process. In California, such protections include conducting interrogations at a “reasonable” hour for a “reasonable” amount of time, financially compensating the officer if the interrogation occurs while the officer is typically off-duty and being informed of the rank, name and command of all officers and persons present at the interrogation. In Maryland, protections include suspending the interrogation for up to 10 days until the officer manages to obtain legal counsel.

    Minnesota, where the Castile case is in progress, also has a police bill of rights. The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, the state’s largest association representing police, did not return requests for comment on the necessity of a police bill of rights.

    To address the issue of police over-use of force, the ACLU has led the push for widespread use of body cameras among police departments. The group argues that body cameras could rein in police misconduct while also protecting police from false allegations.

    Body cameras have correlated with lower use of force in Rialto, California, where officers’ use of force dropped by 58 percent and complaints against officers dropped by 88 percent in the 12 months following their introduction in 2012, according to a study by researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology (IoC).

    The public’s preconceived notions of innocence and guilt may also influence the utility of body camera videos as evidence. Elizabeth OuYang, a civil rights attorney of more than 30 years, said implicit biases about alleged criminals influence public perception, and thus influence the outcome of police homicide cases. She says that popular perceptions of alleged perpetrators who become the victims of a shooting, set the tone for how body camera video evidence is perceived and digested.

    “[The] public’s perception of the role of the police officer is that they are putting their lives out to protect us,” OuYang said. “So, the public, by and large, would like to give police the benefit of the doubt in situations where claims of police brutality are alleged.”

    ACLU’s Robinson says body cameras are only as effective as the system allows them to be, and that focusing on them as a single solution is misplaced.

    “The issue is not ‘Are body cameras effective,’ the issue is, what do you do with the information? … People want to look at body cameras as some kind of panacea, and they’re not,” Robinson said. “[We] can photograph what’s happening. [But] nothing else has changed.”

    Robinson said that focusing on body cameras distracts from other steps in the legal process and state laws on police. “If there are other steps in the procedure that make it more difficult for a prosecutor to pursue and convict a police officer, then it’s the reason why the focus on body cameras is just a false focus,” he said.

    Demonstrators march to protest the police shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake - RTSPK2Q

    Demonstrators march to protest the police shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., September 26, 2016. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    Police and advocates look to preventative solutions

    Robinson, the director of the ACLU Center for Justice, said that preventing these killings is a process that needs to start long before the last moments of a shooting victim’s life.

    “If you’re looking at the video for ‘Was the person pointing something at the officer that he could have mistaken for a gun?’ — if that’s where you start the analysis, then that, in and of itself, is a biased investigation,” Robinson said. “The focus is often on the last half-second of the life of the person that the police officer kills. If you move the frame back to why the police were responding in the way that they were responding in the first place, all of a sudden you have a very different approach.”

    Samuel Walker, a professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and coauthor of “The New World of Police Accountability,” has focused his research on preventing police violence by changing police culture and regular police practice.

    “It’s very difficult to get any kind of conviction, regardless of what the state law is,” he said. “The challenge is to change how they do routine police business. There are 63 million encounters between police and citizens every year. Everyone wants instant changes in terms of what’s happening out there in the street … That’s not going to change overnight.”

    In California, at least one department has taken steps to change their routine business. In early October, the San Francisco Police Department announced that it would be working with mental health specialists in order to better de-escalate and negotiate situations encountered on the job, according to CBS News. The city’s Crisis Intervention Specialists team will also be on-call 24/7 to aid police in engaging with individuals with mental health issues.

    In the first six months of 2015, 462 people in the U.S. were fatally shot by police and a quarter of them were experiencing some kind of “mental or emotional crisis,” according to the Washington Post. And the San Francisco police department’s partnership with mental health professionals marks a shift in the city’s approach to decreasing uses of force, both fatal and nonfatal.

    Similarly, there have been shifts in policy and training at New Orleans Police Department, where the department has begun teaching officers to intervene when they see other officers about to engage in unethical behavior, according to The New York Times. The department has infused aspects of training, from “driving skills to report writing” with this lesson of co-accountability.

    Walker is optimistic about the changes in training and policy as well as the induction of body cameras he sees happening across the country.

    “There’s been a tremendous amount of positive development in the last two years, ever since Ferguson,” he said. “There’s special emphasis on de-escalation and trying to avoid uses of force using verbal techniques … and training has emphasized where to position yourself, so that you’re not [feeling] as vulnerable. It’s really the nitty gritty of training that reduces overall uses of force and shootings.”

    The post Stopping police violence starts long before the courtroom appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Native American "water protectors" celebrate that the Army Corps of Engineers denied an easement for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline inside of the Oceti Sakowin camp as demonstrations continue against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., December 4, 2016.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - RTSUMPE

    Native American demonstrators celebrate that the Army Corps of Engineers denied an easement for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline inside of the Oceti Sakowin camp as demonstrations continue against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on Dec. 4, 2016. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday it will temporarily halt construction of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline as it awaits a full environmental impact review of the project in North Dakota.

    The Corps on Sunday announced it would not approve permits for an easement through federal land that were filed by the Texas-based pipeline owner, Energy Transfer Partners LP, which plans to run a portion of a crude oil pipeline under a reservoir near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

    The announcement comes a day before the evacuation deadline set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the North Dakota governor’s office, which ordered protesters stationed for weeks near a pipeline construction site to leave the encampment by Dec. 5, and as thousands of U.S. military veterans vowed to protect the group, comprised of members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and supporters.

    “The department of the Army will not approve an easement that will allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault. “Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes.”

    [Watch Video]

    The $3.8 billion pipeline would stretch nearly 1,200 miles through four states, including portions of federal land in North Dakota that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe considers sacred ground and part of their land under the terms of a 1851 treaty. The planned route also would run under Lake Oahe, which was created through a dam along the Missouri River. Lake Oahe runs for 231 miles from Oahe Dam in South Dakota to Bismarck, North Dakota.

    The project, which would transfer more than 500,000 barrels of crude oil each day 90 feet below the Missouri River, has been widely criticized by protesters for posing a risk to clean drinking water and disregarding tribal sovereignty.

    Native American and visiting "water protectors" celebrate  that the Army Corps of Engineers has denied an easement for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline inside of the Oceti Sakowin camp as demonstrations continue against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., December 4, 2016.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - RTSUMQG

    Native American and visiting “water protectors” celebrate that the Army Corps of Engineers has denied an easement for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline inside of the Oceti Sakowin camp as demonstrations continue against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota on Dec. 4, 2016. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    On Sunday, U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said the Department of Justice would continue to monitor a standoff between police and protesters and would “stand ready to provide resources to help all those who can play a constructive role in easing tensions.”

    “The department remains committed to supporting local law enforcement, defending protesters’ constitutional right to free speech and fostering thoughtful dialogue on the matter,” she said, in a statement. “We recognize the strong feelings that exist in connection with this issue, but it is imperative that all parties express their views peacefully and join us in support of a deliberate and reasonable process for de-escalation and healing.”

    U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement Sunday that she supported the decision to delay construction of the pipeline.

    “The thoughtful approach established by the Army today ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts, as envisioned by NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act),” she said. “The Army’s announcement underscores that tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders, are essential components of the analysis to be undertaken in the environmental impact statement going forward.”

    In a statement, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders lauded President Obama “for listening to the Native American people and millions of others who believe this pipeline should not be built.”

    “In the year 2016, we should not continue to trample on Native American sovereignty,” he said. “We should not endanger the water supply of millions of people. We should not become more dependent on fossil fuel and accelerate the planetary crisis of climate change. Our job now is to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels, not to produce more greenhouse gas emissions.”

    The post Army temporarily halts Dakota Access pipeline project appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A woman places flowers at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a fire in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California, U.S. December 3, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam - RTSUJGH

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    Read the full transcript below.

    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Devin Katayama of KQED News in San Francisco has been covering the story and joins me now from Oakland.

    Devin, for people unfamiliar with this area, this part of Oakland, can you describe what the community is like there?

    DEVIN KATAYAMA, KQED NEWS: Sure, I mean the Fruitvale neighborhood is really cherished here in Oakland. It’s a big Latino neighborhood. It’s been neglected by a lot of the development that some other parts of Oakland are seeing, a lot of parts of Oakland are being highly gentrified. Fruitvale has not really hit that level yet.

    It’s also an area that some people feel dangerous. That it’s right on International Boulevard is right where the building is off of and 31st Avenue, and so, there is crime in that neighborhood as well. There’s also a lot of artists who live in that neighborhood but also congregate in — obviously in warehouses like you saw over the past day and a half.

    It’s a part — it’s partly because of the rent is cheaper in that neighborhood as well.

    STEWART: The building’s been the focus of complaints recently. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

    KATAYAMA: Sure, and I want to be very careful about how I speak to these complaints at this point because the city and officials have made it very clear that this is something that they have been investigating but right now, they are focusing on the people. From what we understand, the building was permitted as a one-story warehouse, not permitted for entertainment, not permitted for people to live in — both things that have reportedly come out that this warehouse was being used for.

    Obviously, a lot of people are looking for somebody to blame. A lot of people are wondering who these owners are and who was throwing off this event, and why there were so many people in a building such as this building for a party.

    Now, I think something that’s important to know about Oakland is that these kinds of spaces are actually part of what gives Oakland its character. When you speak to a lot of people they speak to these warehouse parties and it is a part of Oakland’s culture. So, these spaces exist. And in many ways, these spaces are places where people who you know feel like they don’t have any other outlet may be able to go to, to be entertained, to have parties like this.

    Now, certainly, there are questions raised about how many of these spaces exist and how close of an eye this city is keeping on these spaces. And that’s going to be coming out in the next days, months, however long it takes.

    STEWART: And also the issue of whether the people are using the space as possibly as residences or places to stay for short periods of time, right?

    KATAYAMA: Certainly, we’ve heard stories about people having live there. We’ve heard stories about people who may have been homeless who were served by this community as well. You speak to — you hear from a lot of people that this was both a beloved community, this group of folks who spent time in this building, threw parties in this building and then you hear a lot of people who are really angry at the people who either throw these parties or own this space, saying that, you know, they have been warned before.

    Now, again, these are all reports so I can’t confirm any of this but I think that’s what we’re going to be looking for in the coming weeks.

    STEWART: Yes, story still developing.

    Devin Katayama from KQED News — thank you so much for sharing your reporting.

    KATAYAMA: Thank you.

    The post Ignored building codes at center of Oakland warehouse fire talks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Cuba's President Raul Castro (C) salutes after placing the box containing the ashes of Cuba's former President Fidel Castro into a boulder at the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, in Santiago de Cuba, December 4, 2016. REUTERS/ACN/Marcelino Vazquez/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSULX1

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    Read the full transcript below.

    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND: Today in Santiago, Cuba, the remains of former president Fidel Castro, who died 10 days ago, were interred in what the government called a simple ceremony.

    No other man in the 20th century ruled his country long as he did — 49 years, before he stepped down in 2008.
    His supporters saw him as a brave champion of the people…and opponents saw a ruthless dictator.

    With the help of the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Nick Schifrin is in Cuba, outside the funeral, and joins us now from Santiago. Nick?

    NICK SCHIFRIN, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, NEWSHOUR WEEKEND: Alison, good evening. This is the city that birthed the hero’s myth of Castro as revolutionary, where he descended from the mountains behind me in 1959 to overthrow a corrupt, us-backed dictator. He dominated Cuba for the next half century with a combined charisma and cruelty, convincing his people he was their destined savior… repressing them with zero tolerance for dissent. But in this city you hear no loathing. Only love.

    Fidel Castro’s final journey ended in the city where his revolution began. A military convoy pulled a flag-draped, cedar coffin containing his ashes through Santiago’s streets.

    His successor and 85-year-old younger brother, Raul, took that box and placed it inside a boulder-like tomb. The final resting place for the man who outlasted 10 U.S. Presidents, is inscribed only with his first name…that became synonymous with his country.

    Outside the cemetery, with the Cuban flag at half-staff, 56-year-old Rogelio del Toro vowed to run the 500-mile route that Castro’s remains took to get here.

    ROGELIO DEL TORO: I will run this route to show the new generation the physical resilience of our commander in chief and what the Cuban people are capable of.

    SCHIFRIN: Del Toro’s sense of patriotism means he glosses over the Castro’s economic policies, which prevented him from escaping poverty.

    DEL TORO: He is the father of the revolution, and we will move forward with the traditions of our commander.

    SCHIFRIN: That adulation was also on display last night at Revolutionary Square, for the final public farewell to the man they call their eternal commander.

    Cuban President Raul Castro has promised to continue his older brother’s work. And amid the flying flags, we found no Fidel critics. No critics of the Cuban government’s persecuting its enemies or curtailing freedom of speech.

    SCHIFRIN: Norah Bosque is 69-years-old and has lived in Santiago all her life.

    NORAH BOSQUE: The people who don’t agree with us can say whatever they want. But for those of us who love him, he will always be our commander-in-chief.

    SCHIFRIN: Even the government’s opponents admit these sentiments are genuine. Daniela Morales is 16.

    DANIELLA MORALES: He will always be our commander even if he’s not here physically. We owe him our freedom and independence.

    SCHIFRIN: For her, freedom and independence means the state’s safety nets: free education from pre-K through university, and free health care. She wants to be an actress.

    MORALES: Our government, our state guarantees everything we need. I think our salary is enough to have a stable and comfortable life. I want everything to stay the way it is.

    SCHIFRIN:
    But the fact is, during the last decade everything in Cuba has not stayed the way it was. 32-year-old Angel Garcia is one of a half million Cubans who’s been allowed to enter the private sector. His old government job only paid 10 dollars a week. He quit and now works at this high-end salon, where a single haircut costs about that much.

    ANGEL PEREZ, HAIR STYLIST: We prefer to work in the private sector now, because we make much more money than in any government job.

    SCHIFRIN: He’s eager for more opportunity. And he thinks the country can provide that without challenging the revolution’s core principles.

    PEREZ:
    We have education, we have free health care. Our problems are small. That allows us to move forward and put our energy toward finding the right changes.

    SCHIFRIN:
    Going forward, Cuba’s leaders will have to figure out a way to maintain the socialist safety net and, at the same time, ease economic frustration. It’s not clear if that’s possible, but Alison, what that likely means is that Cuba will evolve—but very, very slowly, and while it maintains the repression that is one of Fidel’s main legacies.

    STEWART: Nick, one of president Obama’s legacies has been normalizing relations. What are Cubans saying about that trend continuing under president-elect Trump?

    SCHIFRIN: President-Elect Trump could reverse President Obama’s executive actions that increased travel and business opportunities. That’s what Trump seemed to threaten in a recent Tweet, vowing to quote terminate the agreements unless Cuba made a better deal for the Cuban people. Raul Castro has been allowing slow, modest openings here, including those private sector jobs. And most analysts here and in the U.S. warn that halting the normalization could lead to more crackdowns, and fewer openings.

    STEWART:
    Nick Schifrin reporting from Santiago, Cuba. Thank you.

    SCHIFRIN: Thanks, Alison.

    The post Fidel Castro interred in Cuban ceremony appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Recovery teams examine the charred remains of the two-story converted warehouse that caught fire killing dozens in Oakland, California, U.S., December 4, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSUMXA

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    Read the full transcript below.

    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND: Good evening and thanks for joining us.
    Officials in Oakland, California said today that the death toll from this weekend’s tragic warehouse fire is at least 30 people and is expected to rise as they find more victims.

    Several dozen people initially reported “missing” have been reunited with their families, but officials are asking relatives of the missing to save items that might have d-n-a samples of their loved ones.

    Emergency responders are working in 12 hour shifts to sift through the site where a two-story warehouse collapsed after rapidly igniting and burning for five hours late Friday night and early Saturday morning.

    Firefighters and other responders have scoured only 20-percent of the site, moving debris bucket by bucket.

    MELINDA DRAYTON, OAKLAND FIRE DEPARTMENT:
    This will be a long and arduous process, but we want to make sure we’re respecting the victims, their families, and our firefighters’ safety.

    STEWART: That process is expected to take several more days, as are the official notifications to families.

    SGT. RAY KELLY, ALAMEDA COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT: We anticipate the number of victims will rise and it will increase in regards to the amount of people that are still missing, yes, it’s a significant number.

    STEWART: Josette Melchor is a community organizer and digital art curator who has six friends on the “missing” list. She had been inside the warehouse before and was concerned it was not safe.

    MELCHOR:
    It was entirely made of wood, entirely made of reused furniture and the key thing that I think everyone is thinking about is the just the sense that you got when you climbed up this ladder or this staircase that you just couldn’t get back down fast. There was no way that was going to happen.”

    STEWART: She hosted a vigil last night for friends in this close knit community waiting for word from the authorities.

    MELCHOR: We’re all realizing that we need to remember people’s lives and remember the people surrounding us and remember the smiles and faces that are always around us in this community and how much we cherish them.
    STEWART: Her nonprofit group — the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts — started a relief fund that rose quickly to its goal of $150,000.

    MELCHOR: It’s incredible to see how many people are coming out from all over the world to support such a small community.

    STEWART: DJ Augie Sanchez has performed at parties like the electronic music event that was underway at the warehouse Friday night when the fire broke out. Two of his friends were performing there at the time.

    SANCHEZ: We as performers know the risks we take in some of these spaces, and so it definitely–it hits home. It could have been any one of us that was at an event like this.

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    Native American "water protectors" and their allies celebrate that the Army Corps of Engineers has denied an easement for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, inside of the Oceti Sakowin camp as demonstrations continue against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., December 4, 2016.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - RTSUMYE

    Native American “water protectors” and their allies celebrate that the Army Corps of Engineers has denied an easement for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, inside of the Oceti Sakowin camp as demonstrations continue against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., December 4, 2016. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    The Department of Army has denied a crucial permit to continue construction of the $3.8 billion dollar Dakota Access pipeline. The decision, announced Sunday, officially halts construction of the 1,172-mile oil pipeline about half a mile south of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

    The decision is seen as a significant victory for the thousands of “water protectors” who have journeyed to the North Dakota prairie to protest the energy project.

    “It’s significant for all of the people that supported us, standing with us,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II. “It’s huge. It’s big.”

    Archambault made the announcement from the Oceti Sakowin Camp – the sprawling encampment named in honor of the ancestral lands of the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota people.

    News of the tribal victory quickly spread from nearby Eagle Butte, South Dakota, the heart of the neighboring tribal community of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. It’s where 42-year-old Remy Bald Eagle announced the Army Corps decision Sunday afternoon where veterans across the country were arriving at the tribal bingo hall.

    “It’s surreal,” said Bald Eagle, who said war whoops and laughter could be heard from people learning of the denied permit. The Cheyenne River Sioux tribal leader received a call from the tribe’s chairman, Harold Frazier, who has been engaged in the battle over the Dakota Access pipeline alongside Chairman Archambault.

    The Army Corps’ assistant secretary for civil work, Jo-Ellen Darcy, said that after hearing the tribes’ concerns that the risk of an oil spill from the pipeline could affect the drinking water of Standing Rock and millions of other Americans, it became “clear that there’s more work to do.” The federal agency is recommending an Environmental Impact Statement be conducted with full public input and analysis to explore a possible reroute of the pipeline.

    Sunday’s victory occurred in the midst of thousands of U.S. military veterans arriving to the wintry high plains to stand in solidarity with the growing movement. Arranged under the “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock” operation, organizers say as many as 4,000 service men and women joined the campaign. The call for support gained momentum in the aftermath of a Dec. 5 Army Corps eviction deadline issued the day after Thanksgiving to pipeline resisters who have been occupying federal lands for months.

    Photo by Jenni Monet

    1st Lt. Marcella LeBeau (Lakota) stands in a gymnasium on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation on Saturday where she greeted thousands of veterans who traveled across the country to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock “water protectors.” The 97-year-old U.S. Army nurse served in World War II from 1944-1947. Photo by Jenni Monet

    “Our people were warriors and it’s kinda coming full circle again,” said Marcella LeBeau, a U.S. Army Nurse who served in World War II. The 97-year-old Lakota woman from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is also the great-great granddaughter of Chief Four Bears, or Mah-to-tow-pah, one of several signatories of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. That Treaty, in part, secured lands to the Sioux that were historically taken by the federal government in a series of land seizures.

    On Saturday, LeBeau was at the tribal bingo hall to receive thousands of road-weary veterans as they met icy conditions and were forced to stop for the night. “The treaties they say they are the law of the land,” said LeBeau, referring to language used by forebears who signed these historic pacts with Native Americans. “I think all of that will come to surface now and our history will be told.”

    What began as a battle to stop the $3.8 billion pipeline from traversing beneath the primary water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe swelled into a greater movement protesting many issues: corporate greed, police violence and diminishing civil liberties. Many Indigenous Peoples and their supporters say their struggle is also an attempt to start reversing 500 years of colonization and oppression on the very lands that are central to the current standoff.

    The battleground now has been intensified by frigid conditions, including freezing temperatures and snow. Those camped out along the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers also have had a persistent militarized police presence to face. On Wednesday, more North Dakota National Guard troops were activated to assist Morton County Sheriff’s deputies, bringing the total number of officers to 500.

    Thousands of veterans joined the Standing Rock Sioux protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline this weekend. Photo by Jenni Monet

    Thousands of veterans joined the Standing Rock Sioux protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline this weekend. Photo by Jenni Monet

    Still, as many as 11,000 protesters remain  —  and with the aid of scores of veterans.

    “The support that we received from the veterans has shown the people of my nation that we are all American, that we are all in this fight together,” said Bald Eagle.

    The group behind the veteran-support operation pledged to act peacefully to stand in solidarity with the unarmed water protectors.

    “Our mission is to prevent progress on the Dakota Access Pipeline and draw national attention to the human rights warriors of the Sioux tribes,” read the group’s operation orders. But execution details also stated an exploitation plan. “If we have a gap in police lines we will maneuver through and head straight for the drilling pad,” wrote the group, referring to the nearby site where pipeline construction continued at the easement of the Missouri River, awaiting final permit approval from the Army Corps.

    Energy Transfer Partners did not immediately return calls for comment.

    Meantime, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, which has repeatedly used intense militarized force to respond to demonstrators while guarding ongoing construction of the pipeline replied with neutrality. “I have stated from the beginning that the easement is a federal decision and local law enforcement does not have an opinion on it,” Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said. “Our role is to enforce the law and that is what we will continue to do.”

    READ NEXT: For Native ‘water protectors,’ Standing Rock protest has become fight for religious freedom, human rights

    On Friday, as tension mounted, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch telephoned Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and Standing Rock Tribal Chairman David Archambault II. Lynch later released a statement urging “everyone involved to exercise restraint, to refrain from violence and to express their views peacefully.”

    In the past month, clashes between police and the protesters have escalated. Violence has erupted and there have been mass arrests — more than 525 since August. Deputies with the Morton County Sheriff’s Department have repeatedly used rubber bullets, mace, pepper spray and tear gas against activists who insist that they are unarmed. On Nov. 20, hundreds of protesters suffered hypothermia after police hosed them down with water in sub-freezing temperatures.

    “The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country will be forever grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision,” wrote Chairman Archambault in a statement released by the tribe.

    But while water protectors and their legion of veteran supporters may be celebrating this latest development, tribal leaders are also remaining pragmatic.

    “We hope that Kelcey Warren, Governor Dalrymple, and the incoming Trump administration respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point,” said Archambault in his statement, referring to the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners and North Dakota’s governor.

    “A much as we enjoy the warmth of goodness, we still have to keep our eyes on the horizon for bad weather,” said Bald Eagle. “We know that this is only temporary and we know that this fight isn’t over.”

    The post War whoops and hugs among ‘water protectors’ follow denied permit to Dakota Access appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager testifies in his murder trial at the Charleston County court in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by Grace Beahm/Post and Courier/Pool/Reuters

    Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager testifies in his murder trial at the Charleston County court in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by Grace Beahm/Post and Courier/Pool/Reuters

    A South Carolina judge formally declared a mistrial Monday in the case of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, who was charged in the death of Walter Scott.

    After more than 22 hours of deliberations over four days, jurors told Circuit Judge Clifton Newman on Monday afternoon they could not come to an unanimous decision in the case against the 34-year-old ex-patrolman, who faced a possible sentence of 30 years to life in prison.

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

    The judge had told the jury it could decide on a murder charge or a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

    The jury was struggling to reach a verdict late last week. On Friday afternoon the judge received three notes from the jury’s foreman, indicating that one out of the 12 jurors said he couldn’t consider a guilty verdict.

    “I still cannot without a reasonable doubt convict the defendant,” the juror is quoted as saying by The Post and Courier. “I cannot and will not change my mind,” the juror added.

    Slager, who is white, fatally shot and killed 50-year-old Scott in April 2015, after Scott fled a traffic stop. Bystander footage that caught the shooting showed that Slager discharged his weapon at Scott eight times. Five of those rounds hit Scott as he ran away.

    North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, right, is seen shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back as he runs away, in this still image from video in North Charleston, South Carolina taken April 4, 2015. Handout photo via Reuters

    North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, right, is seen shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back as he runs away, in this still image from video in North Charleston, South Carolina taken April 4, 2015. Handout photo via Reuters

    The judge had previously pushed the jury to deliberate multiple times today, after it had requested further explanations of the law, including the legal distinction between “fear” and “passion.” Twice today, the mostly all-white jury said it couldn’t reach a verdict.

    Slager’s defense attorneys repeatedly moved for a mistrial throughout the back-and-forth between the judge and jury. The state prosecution asked the judge to grant the jury the additional instruction it wanted and asked to wait to see what happened. Solicitor Scarlett Wilson also said the lone holdout may not fully understand the murder or manslaughter charges against Slager.

    “If this jury is able to reach a verdict through some further explanation, we think it’s important that we try,” Wilson said.

    Since opening statements of the month-long trial, the prosecution said Slager was on trial for his attempts to “stage” the scene.

    Almon Brown, a former agent at the State Law Enforcement Division, testified that an early police account of Slager’s encounter with Scott had inconsistencies and “just didn’t seem correct” when compared to forensic reports of Scott’s injuries

    Video by Associated Press

    But defense attorneys argued that the bystander’s video was incomplete and “didn’t properly record” the full encounter. They also argued that investigators didn’t adequately disprove Slager’s self-defense story.

    Slager had told investigators that Scott wrestled control of his Taser while they fought on the ground. Slager said he feared for his life and shot Scott when he pointed his stun gun at him. When he testified earlier this week, Slager echoed his early statements, saying he was gripped by “total fear” moments before he fired his gun.

    “I see him with a Taser in his hand as I see him spinning around,” Slager said during his testimony. “That’s the only thing I see: that Taser in his hand.”

    But the cellphone footage showed Scott falling yards away from where Slager fired his gun. Also seen in the video is Slager returning to the area where they originally tussled, picking up an unidentified, black object — thought to be his Taser — and then dropping it near Scott’s body.

    When prosecutors pressed Slager on questions about the shooting, the ex-officer said he was unable to recall certain moments, adding that his mind was “like spaghetti.”

    Slager will also face a federal trial early next year.

    Alison Thoet contributed to this report.

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    Dr. Ben Carson Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

    Ben Carson has been tapped to run HUD. Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

    Ben Carson, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is an unusual choice for HUD secretary.

    Carson, 65, is a retired neurosurgeon and author with no professional housing policy experience. A onetime Trump rival who became a key surrogate after dropping out of the Republican primaries, Carson also does not have significant management experience.

    If confirmed, Carson will run a federal agency with an annual budget of roughly $50 billion and 8,000 employees.

    HUD is in charge of public housing and rental assistance programs that impact 5 million families, oversees the Federal Housing Administration and Community Development Block Grant program, and enforces fair housing laws.

    A majority of past HUD secretaries served in local, state or federal government before leading the agency, which was created in 1965.

    Robert Weaver, the first HUD secretary — and the first African-American cabinet member in U.S. history — was a former Roosevelt administration official, and a former vice-chairman of the New York City Housing and Redevelopment Board.

    Alphonso Jackson, who served as HUD secretary under George W. Bush, had previously run the Dallas Housing Authority. The agency’s current secretary, Julián Castro, is a former mayor of San Antonio.

    Though Carson has a different professional background, he grew up in public housing in Detroit. In a recent Fox News interview, Carson cited that experience as his chief qualification for serving as housing secretary.

    Here is a list of Carson’s few past comments on housing and urban policy. They offer the most insight, so far, into how he would run the housing agency under Trump.

    “I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need. We have much work to do in enhancing every aspect of our nation and ensuring that our nation’s housing needs are met.” — Carson’s statement after Trump nominated him as HUD secretary on Dec. 5, 2016.

     

    “I grew up in an inner city and have spent a lot of time there, and have dealt with a lot of patients in that area, and recognize that we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities.” — Fox News interview on Nov. 22, 2016.

     
    Last year, Carson criticized a new Obama administration fair housing law, calling it a “government-engineered” takeover:

    “These attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse. There are reasonable ways to use housing policy to enhance the opportunities available to lower-income citizens, but based on the history of failed socialist experiments in this country, entrusting the government to get it right can prove downright dangerous.” — Op-ed in The Washington Times, July 23, 2015.

     
    On a separate occasion last year, Carson criticized a Section 8 housing program in Iowa:

    “This is what you see in communist countries, where they have so many regulations encircling every aspect of your life that if you don’t agree with them, all they have to do is pull the noose.” — Interview with Jan Mickelson, an Iowa radio talk show host, on June 10, 2015.

     

    “It really is not compassionate to pat people on the head and say, ‘There, there you poor little thing, I’m going to take care of all your needs, your healthcare, your food, and your housing, don’t you worry about anything.'” — Speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Feb. 26, 2015.

     

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    Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) the day after the U.S. presidential election in New York City, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RTX2SWPB

    Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange the day after the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 9, 2016. Were the pre-election and election night markets wrong to be so pessimistic about Trump? Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    Prior to the 2016 presidential election, financial markets reacted to election news as if they were dreading the prospect of a Trump presidency. When events moved the electoral probabilities in Clinton’s favor, global stock markets rallied, and markets fell when events moved the odds in Trump’s favor (Table 1). Economist Justin Wolfers and I discussed these movements in a working paper and I elaborated on them in a piece on Making Sen$e. On election night, markets moved consistently: rallying when early returns favored Clinton and then plummeting when it became clear Trump was the winner.

    Screen Shot 2016-12-05 at 3.15.58 PM

    Beginning around the opening of European markets at 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning, markets appeared to change their mind about President-elect Trump (Figure 1). U.S. and European stocks retraced their initial declines on Tuesday night and actually closed up on Wednesday. Right now, just over three weeks into the transition, the recovery in U.S. stocks has held, and the S&P 500 is up about 2.5 percent from its pre-election close. The S&P 500 being worth about 2 percent more under a Republican president is completely consistent with my past work with Wolfers and Erik Snowberg on market reactions to presidential elections. The market appears to have shifted in a few hours from viewing Trump as a threat to the global economy to viewing him as a typical Republican.

    Screen Shot 2016-12-05 at 3.20.23 PM

    Why did investors’ expectations of a Trump presidency change so sharply and (thus far) so enduringly on Wednesday morning? Before tackling that question, I want to make two points about the pre- and post-election market movements.

    First, it is not that unusual for off-hours markets to react differently from day-time markets to the same news. The pre- and immediately post-election market movements reflected an aggregation of the opinion of a subset of global investors. These traders have very strong incentives to correctly anticipate day-time traders’ reaction. The evidence suggests that they get it right on average, but with a fair amount of error. In the last eight years, there have been 30 days when the S&P 500 has moved 3 percent or more after hours. About 20 percent of the time, that move has completely reversed by the next day close; another 20 percent of the time, it has more than doubled.

    We can therefore view analysis of pre-election market reactions as a bit like a poll – they reflect a sample of opinion, which gives us a hopefully unbiased but of course not perfectly accurate view of the opinion of the full population. Just as the only way to learn the full voting population’s voting intentions is to hold an election, the only way to learn the full investing population’s view of a Trump presidency is to wake them up on Wednesday morning and confront them with the news.

    Second, investors actually changed their minds about some aspects of a Trump presidency, but not others. Table 2 reports the pre-election reaction to the FBI letter reopening the Clinton email investigation (which is the most useful of the pre-election events as it occurred during regular U.S. trading hours) and the reaction to Trump’s election over three time horizons: the election night reaction, the reaction as of the next-day close and the cumulative reaction as of Dec. 2, 2016.

    Table 2. Pre-election reaction to the FBI letter vs. immediate and longer-run reactions to the election

    Five-letter tickers are for specific futures contracts; three letter tickers are for the relevant exchange traded funds or stocks or are ISO codes in the case of foreign currencies. The “private sector prisons” sectors is proxied for by an equal-weighted average of the two stocks given; “infrastructure” is proxied by a capitalization-weighted average of U.S. stocks in the GICS category for Industrial Construction. For assets tracked by ETFs and stocks, election-night return windows begin at 4 p.m. on Nov. 8 rather than 7:45 p.m. For foreign stock indices, the Tuesday night returns marked with a † are from spot index changes (for Asia) or index futures (for Europe) for the closest available window, converted from local currency to U.S. dollars.

    Five-letter tickers are for specific futures contracts; three letter tickers are for the relevant exchange traded funds or stocks or are ISO codes in the case of foreign currencies. The “private sector prisons” sectors is proxied for by an equal-weighted average of the two stocks given; “infrastructure” is proxied by a capitalization-weighted average of U.S. stocks in the GICS category for Industrial Construction. For assets tracked by ETFs and stocks, election-night return windows begin at 4 p.m. on Nov. 8 rather than 7:45 p.m. For foreign stock indices, the Tuesday night returns marked with a † are from spot index changes (for Asia) or index futures (for Europe) for the closest available window, converted from local currency to U.S. dollars.

    The pattern of movements in the first two windows (the reaction to the FBI letter and immediate reaction to Trump’s win) are quite consistent with one another, although the magnitudes in the second window are naturally much larger, since they are reactions to a Trump win, rather than just an increase in his odds of winning. The movements in the second two windows are likewise fairly consistent — markets’ first-day reactions to Trump’s win have so far persisted. What is interesting is the similarities and differences between the two pairs of windows.

    For example, the pre- and immediately post-election view that a Trump presidency would be bad for Latin American and East Asian stocks and currencies appears to have held up well post-election. Moreover, many sectors that Trump was expected to be especially good for biotech, pharmaceuticals, private-sector prisons have outperformed the market, while those that his election has expected to harm (HMOs) have underperformed.

    What did the market change its mind about Trump’s effect on? An even bigger surprise than the Wednesday rally in U.S. and European stocks was the spike in Treasury yields. Treasury yields fell initially when Trump won on Tuesday night. But on Wednesday they rose sharply, especially for longer maturities. The 30-year Treasury yield jumped from 2.63 to 2.88 percent, its largest one-day increase since 1996. By Dec. 2, the 30-year yield had reached 3.06. (The futures prices shown in Table 2 moved in the opposite direction.)

    Apart from Treasuries, the commodities market flipped from expecting Trump to be good for gold and silver and bad for energy to expecting the reverse. Among sectors, the market switched from expecting financial services and infrastructure to underperform under Trump to expecting them to outperform.

    Why did the market change its mind about Trump? Our best hope in understanding the shift lies in parsing what it did and did not change its mind about. To me, the pattern of returns in Table 2 suggests the following story.

    Prior to the election, Trump advocated an unusual mixture of populist and pro-business policies. Populist policies like protectionism would likely be especially bad for export-oriented emerging markets, but also contractionary for the global economy and bad for the profits of the S&P 500. In contrast, policies like corporate tax cuts and infrastructure spending might be bad for the deficit, but are very likely expansionary and good for profits. Given that his supporters told us to take Trump “seriously, but not literally,” there was probably more uncertainty than normal on election night about which of his promises would turn out to be priorities.

    The market movements on Wednesday morning are consistent with a shift in the expected mix of Trump’s policies. Many have attributed the recovery at least partly to the magnanimity of Trump’s 3 a.m. victory speech. I would put more emphasis on the fact that the speech mentioned one and only one policy priority: infrastructure spending.

    In addition, it is possible that the market’s recovery itself affected the mix of policies expected from Trump. Suppose markets had crashed and then remained at low levels after Trump’s election. This probably would have reduced his ability to pass legislation, but it would have had less effect on his ability to act unilaterally. Indeed, it might even have encouraged Trump to substitute unilateral for legislative action, as President Obama began doing in 2014.

    Others (including Wolfers) have pointed out that the President has significant ability to unilaterally disrupt trade agreements if he chooses to, but tax cuts or new spending requires Congressional cooperation. Thus the market rally on Wednesday morning may have shifted Trump’s policy mix towards more expansionary policy, reinforcing the rally. These feedback effects may be stronger than typical due to Trump’s unusual mix of pro and anti-S&P 500 proposals, an unusual level of uncertainty about which of his pre-election proposals he will seek to implement, and a belief among at least some investors that the economy could benefit from further fiscal stimulus.

    Of course, it is hard to be certain of these feedback effects since we will (fortunately) never observe the counterfactual of a post-crash President-elect Trump. I at least have been mildly surprised by the level of promised cooperation Trump has received from Congress on tax cuts and infrastructure spending, as well as the limited attention given to protectionism. The highest-profile protectionism Trump has pursued has come in a profit-friendly (albeit deficit-unfriendly) form, namely inducing Carrier to keep jobs in the U.S. with subsidies rather than trade barriers.

    Were the pre-election and election night markets wrong to be so pessimistic about Trump? Is the current, more sanguine view the correct one? As an investor, citizen and (in case you were wondering) political independent, I certainly hope so. Time will tell.

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    The exterior of the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant in Washington, U.S. December 5, 2016. The pizzeria vowed on Monday to stay open despite a shooting incident sparked by a fake news report that it was fronting a child sex ring run by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Photo by  Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

    The exterior of the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant in Washington, U.S. December 5, 2016. The pizzeria vowed on Monday to stay open despite a shooting incident sparked by a fake news report that it was fronting a child sex ring run by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

    On Sunday afternoon, a 28-year-old man walked into a Washington, D.C. ping-pong bar and pizzeria. He was carrying an AR-15 assault rifle – hardly standard-issue hardware for a round of table tennis. He fired one or more shots, as people fled Comet Ping Pong, before surrendering to police officers. No one was injured.

    Edgar Maddison Welch told police he had traveled from his home in Salisbury, N.C. to the nation’s capital to investigate a pre-election conspiracy theory, wherein Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton allegedly led a child-trafficking ring out of Comet Ping Pong.

    A false claim started by, you guessed it, fake news. (Here’s a brief history on how #Pizzagate was born.)

    Incidents like the #Pizzagate shooting signify just one step in a long, dark trail of real world consequences caused by fake news — one that started well before this year

    Fake news, once confined to satire or the fringe bowels of the internet, has quickly become a contender for the most influential phrase of the year. Following Donald Trump’s surprise election, story after story has questioned the role that fake news played in swaying voters — and for good reason. A BuzzFeed analysis found fake election news outperformed total engagement on Facebook when compared to the most popular election stories from 19 major news outlet combined. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg described this allegation as “a pretty crazy idea” before ultimately announcing a move to deter misleading news . Later, Facebook and Google took steps to keep fake news sites from collecting revenue from their ad platforms.

    To some degree, Zuckerberg’s initial stance was warranted. A panel of experts told the NewsHour that it would be nearly impossible to prove that phony stories swayed the U.S. election in one direction or another, based on current research. On the flip side, they said incidents like the #Pizzagate shooting signify just one step in a long, dark trail of real world consequences caused by fake news — one that started well before this year. They argued that emerging technology may stem the tide of garbage news in the near future. And they highlighted one solution that already exists.

    Before Pizzagate, came Ebola

    Fake news comes in many flavors, like satire or intentional hoaxes, but computer scientist Filippo Menczer said sensational news and social media campaigns filled with mistruths — like the PizzaGate story — started to surge on the internet around 2010.

    Blaming readers for spreading fake news from a cognitive perspective is somewhat equivalent to blaming a baby for soiling itself. They can’t help it.

    “That is the first time that we started studying it actively, and at that time, we found several cases of websites that were publishing completely fake and fabricated news, purely for political propaganda,” said Menczer, who designs algorithms to track political messaging as director of Indiana University’s Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research.

    Menczer recalled an example that occurred in 2010 during the special election to fill the vacancy created by the death of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. Researchers at Wellesley College found that, in the hours before the election, a Republican group from Iowa used thousands of Twitter bots to spread misinformation about the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley. At the time, search engines prioritized “real-time information” from social media platforms, so these fake posts topped search results just as people headed to the polls.

    NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports on how computer scientists can analyze Twitter handles to determine whether or not they are political bots.

    Six years ago, few fake news websites featured ads for their content, Menczer said. Their main goal was political gain. By his estimation, the cottage industry for phony stories appeared to take off during the 2014 Ebola crisis. The websites for places like National Report, which self identifies as political satire, began to resemble legitimate news sources. False stories on National Report like “Texas Town Quarantined After Family Of Five Test Positive For The Ebola Virus” feature elements like author biographies and video shorts embedded in the page to give the feel of authenticity, Menczer said. Whether those attributes or the “satirical writing” mislead people is hard to say. But the Texas story, which lacks a disclaimer in the body of the text that clearly identifies it as satire, was shared more than 330,000 times on Facebook according to MuckRack’s WhoShared algorithm.

    Irrational fears of the Ebola virus in the U.S. arguably drove web interest in this fake news story, as it likely did for any number of legitimate articles written during the outbreak. When the dust settled, America notched four imported cases and one death during the entire course of the epidemic, while in contrast Africa experienced around 30,000 cases and 11,000 deaths.

    Yet the American news machine had its share of media casualties during the Ebola crisis. One example involved Kaci Hickox, a Doctors Without Borders nurse who volunteered to treat people in West Africa.

    Nurse Kaci Hickox (L) joined by her boyfriend Ted Wilbur spoke with the media outside of their home in Fort Kent, Maine October 31, 2014. Maine Governor Paul LePage wanted Hickox to be quarantined in her house even though she had tested negative for the virus and said she was healthy at the time. Photo by Joel Page/REUTERS

    Nurse Kaci Hickox (L) joined by her boyfriend Ted Wilbur spoke with the media outside of their home in Fort Kent, Maine October 31, 2014. Maine Governor Paul LePage wanted Hickox to be quarantined in her house even though she had tested negative for the virus and said she was healthy at the time. Photo by Joel Page/REUTERS

    Upon returning on a flight through Newark, she was quarantined for 80 hours by the New Jersey Department of Health and Gov. Chris Christie, despite showing no conclusive symptoms. Even after an Ebola test came back and she was released, Gov. Christie reportedly said Hickox may be “tested for that again, because sometimes it takes a little bit longer to make a definitive determination,” and that “There’s no question the woman is ill, the question is what is her illness.”

    From Hickox’s perspective, the modern news cycle did the rest.

    “The statements were completely untrue, but they were printed and published. Interviews with Chris Christie were playing on the news,” Hickox told NewsHour. “It was another example of when you have a politician who really has access to say whatever they want, even though it was completely inaccurate.”

    The negative ramifications occurred immediately. As Hickox journeyed home to Maine, her landlord left a voicemail on her partner’s cell phone, asking them to move out. “Before I left for Sierra Leone, she was very supportive, and she told me how amazing it was that I had the skills to go help respond to the Ebola outbreak,” Hickox recalled. “Then all of a sudden this woman doesn’t want you to return home, even though I never had Ebola, I wasn’t symptomatic and there was no reason for anyone to fear.”

    Trending news stories, both fake and real, buy into what’s called the attention economy, whereby “if people pay attention to a certain topic, more information on that topic will be produced.”

    Those public fears ballooned when Maine Gov. Paul LePage followed in Christie’s tracks and tried to enforce a similar quarantine. Maine police officers complained about fielding phone calls from concerned residents who had been duped by fake news articles. Hickox heard rumors from the police department about physical threats against her, and her partner ended up dropping out of nursing school because they wouldn’t allow him to attend while he was living with her, she said. The couple opted to ultimately go on a widely publicized bike ride to, in essence, force a judge to make a decision about the quarantine, a point that was missed by the mainstream media, she said.

    “The state hadn’t met the burden of proof to say that I needed to be quarantined. No one really explained that,” Hickox said. A Reuters headline at the time, for instance, read “Bike-riding nurse defies Ebola quarantine, on collision course with governor” — even though no court had issued an official quarantine at the time.

    Hickox, who ultimately left Maine, said outside Christie and LePage, she wasn’t sure who to blame for the unjustified hype around her story.

    “Is it the media that causes public panic, or is it that we, the public, just desire drama and fear, and that therefore feeds into the media,” Hickox asked.

    Based on research, the answer is both, as Menczer detailed recently in an OpEd for The Conversation. Trending news stories, both fake and real, buy into what’s called the attention economy, whereby “if people pay attention to a certain topic, more information on that topic will be produced.”

    Why your brain loves fake news

    Tell me if you’ve heard this common refrain since the election: “If people were smarter, fake news wouldn’t be a problem,” or “Readers are responsible for telling fake news from the real stuff. Don’t blame Facebook.”

    But to communications psychologist Dannagal Young, blaming readers for spreading fake news from a cognitive perspective is somewhat equivalent to blaming a baby for soiling itself. They can’t help it.

    This takeaway comes after a decade of studying how the human mind responds to political satire. Satire is arguably the most prevalent variety of fake news and arguably the best studied. The mental processing of satire is unique compared to other types of information, Young said, because it requires audience participation.

    “So compared to what we see in traditional communication, there is this enhanced attention, enhanced interest and enhanced processing that happens,” said Young, who works at the University of Delaware. “So things that you hear in the context of humor will be more on the top of your mind.”

    Our brains have a finite capacity for processing information and for remembering, so our minds make value judgments about what to keep. Humor tips the scales in favor of being remembered and recalled, Young said. Photo by psdesign1/via Adobe

    Our brains have a finite capacity for processing information and for remembering, so our minds make value judgments about what to keep. Humor tips the scales in favor of being remembered and recalled, Young said. Photo by psdesign1/via Adobe

    But here’s where problem lies with fake news and the human mind. Our brains have a finite capacity for processing information and for remembering, so our minds make value judgments about what to keep. Humor tips the scales in favor of being remembered and recalled, even when counterarguments are strong.

    “The special sauce of humor is that you might get people to entertain ideas of constructs that they otherwise might reject out of hand,” she said, and this powerful mode of persuasion extends to sensational fake news as well. “When you have exposure to fake news or satire, or any content at all, as soon as those constructs have been accessed and brought into working memory, they are there. You can’t un-think them.”

    This mental reflex may explain why caricature traits — “Al Gore is stiff and robotic” or “George W. Bush is dumb” — persist in the zeitgeist for so long despite being untrue, Young said.

    These days, the trouble arises from people being unable to recognize irony in online satire, Young said. She offered the example of a recent Change.org petition — Allow Open Carry of Firearms at the Quicken Loans Arena during the RNC Convention in July. The petition was written as if real, and news outlets like USA Today assumed as much, but its gun control-supporting author was actually trying to portray what he viewed as hypocrisy from conservative politicians. Young argued spoken irony — think John Oliver — creates less confusion because its easier to recognize the tones of intent.

    How to beat fake news

    So, what happens next in the wild west of phony tales? Some are looking to robots to save the day. For example, the verbal themes of satire are so distinctive, so salient, that linguists like Victoria Rubin can engineer machine-learning algorithms to filter this brand of fake news from legitimate articles.

    “We were able to reach about 86 percent accuracy, which means definitely eight out of 10 would be pinpointed as satire,” said Rubin, who studies information and media at the University of Western Ontario. These algorithms are trained to spot the hallmarks of satire, like extra-long sentences or unexpected juxtapositions of random people and places, locations.

    These programs, however, still struggle when it comes to identifying the type of misinformation present in sensational news items. Their attempts at a deception detector yielded a 63 percent success rate, which is better than the human ability to spot lies — 54 percent on average — but not by much.

    In recent weeks, many have called on Facebook to develop such programs or other methods to stop fake news, but Young said the social media platform had tried long before fake news became a mainstream problem.

    Unfollowing is one of the most efficient techniques to put yourself inside an echo chamber.

    A year and a half ago, Young said Facebook rolled out satire labeling for stories from satirical sources like The Onion. She said readers disliked this option because part of the allure of satire is getting momentarily swept up before realizing the story is a joke.

    Next, Facebook tried a button in the right corner of posts that allowed readers to flag posts as fake, but then satirical content producers like The Daily Currant protested, based on research to be published by Young in an upcoming book in 2017. Facebook appeared to change how flagged stories were distributed, and referrals from Facebook to The Daily Currant dropped by 95 percent within a few months.

    Though this crowdsourced option for reporting fake news still exists, Young said its influence on the distribution of stories into news feeds may have been supplanted by the “reaction emojis” that Facebook introduced in February. But she wonders if a “Ha-ha” or “sad” emoji carries the weight in crowdsourcing remarks about misinformative news.

    Both she and Menczer also question whether crowdsourcing is the best path to defeating fake news on social media.

    “I have been a huge advocate of digital technologies as an inherently democratizing medium that’s going to change everything. Now I’m like, ‘Oh my God, we have destroyed ourselves,” Young said, somewhat in jest.

    Since the election, many have tossed blame on Facebook for creating “filter bubbles” or “echo chambers” in users’ news feed. But this notion rings hollow because these platforms are designed to cater to a people’s choices. These decisions, Young said, are driven by confirmation bias and motivated reasoning. In other words, people share articles after reading only the headline, because they want to think they’re right, she said. She votes for bringing back human gatekeepers to tailor trending news and to prevent fake stories from running amok.

    Menczer recommended that social media users who want to avoid echo chambers should follow moderate news sources or organizations that don’t necessarily match their most intimate viewpoints. Or, “don’t unfollow people just because they post something you disagree with,” he said. “Unfollowing is one of the most efficient techniques to put yourself inside an echo chamber.”

    Having lived through the consequences of such public behavior, Hickox is now cautious about how she views others in the news.

    “I would encourage people to always be questioning whether they’re only getting part of a story,” Hickox said. “To make snap judgments that lead to fear and to discrimination against someone is not the right way, and will not get us anywhere.”

    The post The very real consequences of fake news stories and why your brain can’t ignore them appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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