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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: Of the stains left on our national heritage by the country’s history of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, perhaps the least discussed is the practice of racial lynchings, executions of African-Americans done outside the judicial system and often intended to subdue black communities into passivity.

    Hari Sreenivasan looks at a plan to help bring that conversation to the fore.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The plan is to commemorate victims of racially motivated lynchings with a memorial in Montgomery, Alabama.

    The design calls for some 800 columns, which, upon closer viewing, reveal themselves to be suspended from above in a way that mimics a hanging. Each will bear the names of lynching victims, over 4,000 in all, as well as the date and location of their deaths.

    A companion courtyard will hold duplicate columns which will be moved to the county of the lynchings each commemorates, once that local community accepts it.

    A recent $10 million donation from sibling philanthropists Pat and Jon Stryker brings the project closer to its planned 2018 opening.

    For more on all this, we turn to Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which created the concept and is overseeing its completion.

    Bryan, thanks for being with us.

    First, why do we need a memorial like this?

    BRYAN STEVENSON, Equal Justice Initiative: Well, I think we’re still haunted by our history of racial inequality.

    We are really burdened by this legacy. And I don’t think we have acknowledged it adequately. We terrorized African-Americans at the end of the 19th century and through half of the 20th century. The demographic geography of this country was shaped by this era of racial terror and lynching.

    The black people who went to Cleveland and Chicago and Detroit went there as refugees and exiles from terror. And we haven’t owned up to it. And I think we need to. It took us 15 years to build a 9/11 memorial here in New York.

    And I think that’s important. I think it’s critically necessary that we remember what happened on that day. But it’s equally important that we acknowledge this history of terror that I think still undermines our ability to be free, to be just with one another, to kind of shake the burden of racial inequality that still undermines us in many areas.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This is part of a longer project that you have been working on. You documented, I think, 8,000 lynchings over almost a 75-year period. You even grabbed jars of soil from each of these sites. Why?

    BRYAN STEVENSON: The American South is littered with the iconography of the Confederacy.

    And there are communities where the devastation of slavery, where the devastation of the genocide of Native people has not been acknowledged, has not been recognized. Lynchings provide an opportunity for us to go to very specific places. Many of these acts of terror took place on courthouse lawns, in front of schools, in front of churches, in front of places that still exist today.

    So, we have been asking people in the community to engage in acts of truth-telling and acts of recovery, reconciliation, reparation. I think we need that in this country.

    In South Africa, you have seen that. In Rwanda, you have seen that. In Germany, you have seen that. I think they are healthier communities because they acknowledge their histories of mass atrocity and violence. I think we’re less healthy because we haven’t talked about the genocide of Native people, we haven’t talked about slavery, we haven’t talked about lynching.

    And I think, to get there, we’re going to have to do these tasks. We’re going to have to take these steps. And the community involvement, the soil collections are part of that process.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The countries you mentioned, they didn’t get there very quickly. There was resistance.

    Is there resistance, especially in the South in the United States, when you bring up the idea of this memorial?

    BRYAN STEVENSON: I think there is certainly a reluctance.

    We have denied this history for a long time. I think we have become such a punitive society. We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. I think a lot of people are afraid to talk about slavery, are afraid to talk about lynching and segregation because they fear they will be punished.

    We don’t have an interest in punishing America for this history, but we don’t believe we can be free until we acknowledge this history. Issues of police violence, issues of discrimination, issues of lack of diversity are rooted in an absence of truth-telling about our history.

    And so we have to just persuade people that there is something powerful and positive and beautiful that can come when we acknowledge these histories, however painful, and make our ways forward.

    Germany is a nation that we trust more today because they don’t have these — they don’t have statutes to Adolf Hitler. They don’t celebrate the Nazis. Rwanda is a healthier place because they have acknowledged that legacy. So is South America.

    I think America has to replicate that if we’re going to really be free.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: I tried to give a group description of what it looks like or what it will look like, but what are you hoping that people take away if they walk through and visit the space?

    BRYAN STEVENSON: I hope people will begin to think differently about who we are and what our past is.

    You know, this donation comes from Jon and Pat Stryker, who are honoring their father, who stood for civil rights, who understood the importance of civil rights. And I think we have to create spaces.

    The Holocaust memorials are very powerful places. You walk through them, you understand things, you come out and you say never again.

    And I think we need to create spaces in America where we begin to confront this history of racial inequality and we walk out and we say never again. We want them to be sober places. We want them to be informational places, but we also want them to be places where there’s beauty, where there’s hope, where there’s the chance for transformation.

    And I think we can do that. But we can’t do it without spending more time creating the kind of cultural infrastructure that I hope this memorial will contribute to.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there a through-line or a legacy of lynching in the criminal justice system today?

    BRYAN STEVENSON: Oh, absolutely.

    I mean, you know, at the end of the Civil War, we didn’t really deal with the great evil of American slavery. The great evil of American slavery was an involuntary servitude of forced labor.

    I believe the great evil of American slavery was the narrative of racial difference that we created to legitimate it. And because we didn’t address that in the 13th Amendment, I don’t think slavery ended. I think it just evolved.

    And what we did in this country is, we began to criminalize black people. In the late 19th century, convict leasing was a new kind of slavery, where we put black people in jails and prisons, and then leased them to do the same work they would have done as enslaved people.

    And that narrative of criminality was very much behind lynching, even though black people were being lynched for things like not using the colored entrance, for asking for better wages, for scolding white children. Elizabeth Lawrence was lynched in Birmingham, Alabama, because she told white kids to stop throwing stones at her.

    And even though these acts were not crimes, they challenged this racial hierarchy. They challenged this narrative of racial difference.

    And so we used the apparatus of punishment, the narrative of punishment to carry out these lynchings. And when lynchings were shut down because of federal pressure, they moved indoors.

    And we had a criminal justice system and still have a criminal justice system that operates where too often there are presumptions of dangerousness and guilt that get assigned to black and brown people.

    The wrongful convictions, the overincarceration of people of color, these disparities in sentencing are rooted in this history of criminalizing and demonizing people of color that is made most dramatic in this era of lynching.

    And I think, if we understand it, we will do better at overcoming it. But we have to understand it first. And that’s why these projects on slavery and lynching, for me, are so critical.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, thanks for joining us.

    BRYAN STEVENSON: Thank you.

    The post Lynching memorial aims to help U.S. acknowledge a history of terror appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

    Photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

    When a patient goes to the best hospital, he or she usually hopes for a doctor who is knowledgeable and experienced. Something else to wish for? A woman physician.

    That’s because female doctors may on average be better than their male counterparts at treating patients in the hospital and keeping them healthy long-term, according to findings published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

    The study, conducted by a team of researchers at Harvard, examined a random sample of Medicare patients hospitalized between January 2011 and December 2014 treated by general internists. Overall, the researchers scrutinized more than 1.5 million hospitalizations, controlling for differences in hospitals and patient cases.

    Their conclusion: Patients who saw a female doctor were less likely to die within 30 days of leaving the hospital. They were also less likely to get readmitted within a one-month span of their initial discharge.

    “Women physicians are more likely to do evidence-based medicine, and follow clinical guidelines,” noted Ashish Jha, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the study’s co-authors. “They are more likely to communicate in a way patients report is more effective.”

    And those tendencies, it seems, result in healthier patients.

    To be sure, there’s a long-held notion that patients often consider gender when choosing a doctor. But this is the first to suggest that, for patients of all identities, female physicians may be more effective.

    The findings come as hospitals are increasingly pressed to figure out ways to keep patients healthier, and for longer. The 2010 health law restructured how they get paid so that they’re rewarded for patients’ long-term health, and penalized when patients get readmitted. And while the Trump administration has vowed to repeal the law, analysts say many of those payment reforms — which enjoy bipartisan support — are expected to stick around.

    With such incentives in play, hospitals may now see more value in female doctors — who, research has found, are consistently paid less than their male counterparts and less likely to get promoted.

    “Understanding characteristics that are somehow associated with higher quality of care, and lower cost, is important in this era,” said Yusuke Tsugawa, a physician and research associate at Harvard’s school of public health, and the study’s lead author. Hospitals, trying to improve their bottom lines, “might look at their female doctors slightly differently — as a more valuable professional in the team.”

    Put another way: Paying female doctors less than men isn’t just unfair, Jha said. It’s actually inefficient.

    “There’s a little craziness around it,” he said. “The people who seem to provide somewhat better care are the ones who are getting paid less. I think that makes very little sense.”

    That’s the idea behind an op-ed published in in conjunction with the study. It argues that the paper’s findings suggest hospitals serious about improving patient health should invest in improving female salaries and other benefits, so that they’re comparable with those of male doctors.

    Still, it’s unclear why this difference emerges, or even how meaningful it might be. The study’s conclusions suggest women are better about communication and following rules in terms of how they practice medicine.

    But that’s all conjecture, noted Anna Parks, an internal medicine resident at the University of California-San Francisco and the op-ed’s principal author.

    “It’s pretty speculative right now to say what women are doing better than men,” she said. “We need to gather more data on this, so instead of going off of stereotypes, we have hard evidence.”

    That said, generalizing the findings gets tricky. The paper only looks at Medicare patients, who are older, and it only focuses on the inpatient setting. Jha said he thinks the hospital-based findings would likely hold if expanded to other age groups.

    But that’s not necessarily true for other kinds of medicine. The researchers are now examining whether physician gender may relate to surgical outcomes. It’s also unclear whether outpatient cases — for instance, patients seeing a regular doctor to manage a chronic condition — may yield a different result. In hospitals, patients don’t get to choose their doctors, Jha noted, whereas they might pick a surgeon or a primary care doctor.

    Others note that much more research is necessary before physician gender should be factored into the quality equation.

    The differences between male and female doctors may not hold under additional examination, suggested Mark Friedberg, a senior natural scientist at the RAND Corp., a non-profit think tank. He was not involved with the study. Other factors, such as a doctor’s age or educational experience, may matter more.

    “It would be a mistake to change anything in public policy on the basis of these results, or to advise patients to change their behavior based on this information alone,” he said.

    If the findings hold, they point to a way health care can become more efficient and safer for consumers.

    “What this should do is to prompt us to look at these specific behaviors these female physicians are practicing,” Parks said. “Those are behaviors we should be inculcating in all physicians.”

    This report is a cross-post from the Kaiser Health News website. KHN’s coverage in California is funded in part by Blue Shield of California Foundation.

    The post Do female doctors lead to healthier patients? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, it’s time for Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    And welcome to both of you. A lot going on today.

    TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Namely, as we just saw in that report, Amy, that Donald Trump is over the top. The outcome is not surprising, but there were a lot of protests, a lot of noise made around state capitals around the country.

    Is the Electoral College process in any danger?

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Well, no, I don’t think so.

    There were a lot of protests, but, at the end of the day, there were nor defectors on the Democratic side than on the Republican side. You had one in Minnesota, one in Maine who wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders. Now, ultimately, the state law doesn’t allow that. They ended up both casting — in one case, an alternate cast for Hillary Clinton.

    But there were four in Washington state, a state that she carried, that voted for someone other than Hillary Clinton. So, I don’t think that we’re seeing a breakdown of the Electoral College by Any measure, but electors are using the focus on them to make a broader point on the Democratic side much more than the Republican side.

    One final note. It’s amazing how much winning brings people together. And at the end of the day, the Democrats were the ones who lost. They had more of a stake in making a bigger statement than Republicans, who won, and they just simply want to move on and get the Republican Congress and the Republican president in office.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Tam, this is a reminder, though, that this election, that a lot of people are not content just to let this election sit, that they are going to go on a protest, even though they knew the odds were really long they were going to change anything.

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes, this was one of the things where people felt like they needed to try.

    So, people were contacting — mostly people on the left were contacting electors trying to do something. There were a handful of electors who wanted an intelligence briefing. Ultimately — about the alleged Russian meddling in the election.

    Ultimately, that didn’t happen. The person who won the Electoral College on election night won the Electoral College tonight. And it will be finalized and made official on January 6.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s talk about the Russian meddling piece of this.

    Amy, you now have senators commenting. Donald Trump, of course, his — the people around him has commented. The intelligence community is united now in saying it does look as if not only did the Russians hack the Democrats, the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, but they did it to help Donald Trump.

    What is the political fallout? Where do we go from here…


    AMY WALTER: The political fallout becomes very difficult, because it’s hard to separate, at least in the minds of many in the political community, the difference between Russian meddling, which the intelligence communities agrees on, and Russian meddling to help Donald Trump, which then gets us right into the political and partisan debates.

    And whereas you have at least four senators, two Democrats, two Republicans, John McCain and Lindsey Graham on the Republican side, and two Democrats with them, saying we should have a special committee, you’re not hearing a groundswell from the grassroots on the Republican side and from Republican leadership to support a special committee.

    Once you get into a special committee to enforce it, then it becomes partisan and political. And this entire debate about Russian involvement, you can’t — you theoretically can separate it from the politics, but we really can’t.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, where does it go from here, Tam?

    TAMARA KEITH: Well, the relevant committees will investigate, the Intelligence Committee certainly on the Senate side. That’s where Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has said he thinks this should be.

    Obviously, John McCain and Chuck Schumer and some others would like a select committee. But it’s not clear that will happen.

    It truly is remarkable. If you took the names off of it, and you just said, Russia meddles in the U.S. elections, people would be extremely alarmed, and it wouldn’t break along partisan lines.

    But because it is, Russia meddled, Donald Trump may have been aided, Hillary Clinton may have been harmed, suddenly, it does become significantly more political.

    But we should also say that no one is saying — people like John McCain are saying that Russia clearly did something, clearly did this hacking. But John McCain, President Obama, various others are saying that election systems were not hacked, votes were not hacked. However, those e-mails were. And they were leaked out at inopportune times for one candidate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there hangover, though, Amy, in all this from what President Obama did or didn’t do?

    He had a news conference on Friday. He defended his own actions. Is there any lingering — we heard some pushback from Donna Brazile, the acting Democratic Party chair, about what the president said about how he told Vladimir Putin cut it out. And she said, well, no, actually, they didn’t cut it out. They kept at it after he talked to Putin.

    AMY WALTER: That’s right.

    To go right on Tam’s point, there was very little that the president could do that wouldn’t have made this the partisan political issue that it is today. And it would have been even more highly charged in the middle of a campaign.

    And, at the end of the day, I think the folks in the White House, as with many people here in Washington, believed that Hillary Clinton was going to win on election night and that this issue brought up post-election would be less contentious than in the middle of a campaign.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to turn you both now to what we are just learning about literally in the last few minutes.

    And that is Donald Trump put out a statement and has been tweeting, Tam, about these incidents in Europe, in Turkey. He is lumping together the assassination in Turkey of the Russian ambassador and the terrible incident in Berlin with the truck driving into a crowd in a Christmas market. There was also a shooting at an Islamic mosque today in Zurich, Switzerland.

    But he’s saying these are — I’m quoting now from his statement. He condemned the Berlin attack, said: “The Islamic State and other Islamist terrorists are slaughtering Christians as part of their global jihad.” And he said the U.S. — he said civilized world must change its thinking.

    We don’t have clear evidence yet of what was behind these attacks. He’s assuming that it’s all an Islamic — or an Islamist motive here.

    TAMARA KEITH: And the civilized world line came in a tweet.

    This is not new. What is new is that Donald Trump is now president-elect. Donald Trump turning to Twitter to declare that something is Islamist terrorism before the broader security community, before the White House, before others have been willing to declare that, before investigators have been willing to declare that, that is not new.

    He’s done that before in past instance.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We saw that during the campaign, Amy. Do we expect that this is just going to continue when he’s president?

    AMY WALTER: Absolutely.

    And then the question becomes, what do we do about it once he’s in office and hear, of course, the broader dialogue from him and the people around him?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we are — as we have known about these, we have been waiting ourselves to decide or to know what exactly we can say, because the German authorities, the Turkish authorities were only putting out so much information.

    But it appears that Donald Trump has already drawn these conclusions, and so we report them.

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

    TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

    AMY WALTER: Thank you, Judy.

    The post Why Russian election meddling is a partisan issue appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    North Carolina Electoral College representatives sign the Certificates of Vote after they all cast their ballots for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in the State Capitol building in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., December 19, 2016.     REUTERS/Jonathan Drake - RTX2VQID

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, President-elect Donald Trump is now one step closer to officially sealing his victory.

    But the debate over the value of the Electoral College has intensified this year, in part because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million votes.

    William Brangham has our report.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: At the Maryland Statehouse in Annapolis today, a rare sight for our cameras: members of the Electoral College gathering to cast their official votes for president and vice president.

    WOMAN: I vote today for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: After a simple roll call vote, Maryland’s 10 electors have spoken and certified the official results for the state. Hillary Clinton swept Maryland on Election Day, and, as expected, she received all 10 electoral votes.

    In just 40 minutes, more than a year of presidential campaigning comes to an end. But it’s not just here in Maryland. Across the country today, electors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia gathered to do the same, from Pennsylvania and Virginia to Colorado and Michigan.

    Even Bill Clinton is an elector in New York. Now, in most years, no one pays much attention to this process. The Electoral College vote is something of an afterthought. But this time, electors have been under a lot of pressure. Some even received hate mail and death threats because some voters wanted them to change their votes, and deny Donald Trump the presidency.

    We all know the White House hinges on that magical 270 number. That’s the simple majority of 538 electoral votes. It’s a number Mr. Trump clearly reached on election night.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Associated Press is calling Wisconsin, so that puts him over the top. Donald Trump is the next president of the United States.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s the theory, at least, because most states have laws that bind electors to cast their vote according to the popular vote in their state. If they don’t, they can be replaced or punished with a fine. But some states do allow for what’s called faithless electors, and they can vote for whomever they want, regardless of how their state voted on Election Day.

    Now, these faithless electors are pretty rare. There have only been about 160 in history, and they have never flipped the outcome of an election. To have upended Trump’s victory this year, it would have taken 37 electors to change their votes, and that didn’t happen.

    There were a handful of would-be defectors this year, including ones in Georgia and Texas. They chose to resign as electors, rather than vote for Mr. Trump. They were replaced today by Trump supporters.

    But only one Republican had come out publicly as faithless elector, Chris Suprun from Texas.

    CHRIS SUPRUN, Texas Elector: I am not voting for Donald Trump because I don’t think he’s the right man for the job.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, who briefly ran for president as a Democrat this year, argues electors have a moral obligation to vote their conscience.

    LAWRENCE LESSIG, Former Presidential Candidate: Our goal is to let the electors exercise their judgment. The Electoral College was made for this election, precisely.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, says these efforts are just sour grapes.

    REINCE PRIEBUS, Republican National Committee Chairman: It’s about Democrats that can’t accept the outcome of the election. It’s about delegitimizing the American system.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As they have done in elections past, the states will now send their vote totals to Washington, D.C., where Congress will tally them in a joint session next month and officially announce the election results.

    DICK CHENEY, Former Vice President of the United States: Barack Obama of the state of Illinois has received for president of the United States 365 votes.


    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m William Brangham.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, as we reported earlier, one additional Republican elector in Texas voted against Donald Trump, bringing his number of defectors to two.

    The post How 2016 put pressure on the Electoral College appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    People who fled the Shi'ite Muslim villages of al-Foua and Kefraya arrive in government controlled Jibreen area in Aleppo, Syria in this handout picture provided by SANA on December 19, 2016. SANA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. - RTX2VPCM

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United Nations Security Council demanded that the Syrian government and other interested parties allow the U.N. to have unhindered access to Aleppo, so that monitors can watch those trying to flee that war-ravaged city.

    It was a welcome sight for thousands of Syrians trapped in Eastern Aleppo, waiting in the cold. Evacuations resumed overnight, after days of delays, under terms of a fragile cease-fire.

    MAN (through translator): We were very hungry. God will take revenge on our behalf. Hopefully, we will return to Aleppo.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Forty-seven children trapped in an orphanage were among those rescued, but the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, reported some were in critical condition.

    The evacuees were being ferried to Idlib province, widely expected to be the next front in the government’s offensive. At the same time, buses evacuated civilians from two Shiite villages in Idlib besieged by rebels.

    The Syrian army and its allies demanded that evacuation in exchange for letting thousands of civilians and rebel fighters leave Eastern Aleppo. Many of the evacuees were taken first to the rebel-held town of al-Rashideen, west of Aleppo. They received much-needed food, water and humanitarian aid, and, by nightfall, they huddled around fires to stay warm, and recounted the horror they left behind.

    MAHMOUD ABU MOHAMMAD, Evacuee (through translator): We left Aleppo to escape the relentless shelling. All the houses were damaged. Not a single one remained undamaged. We left because of the heavy airstrikes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Late in the day, Turkish officials estimated some 20,000 people had been bussed out of Eastern Aleppo so far.

    For more on what comes next for Aleppo’s evacuated civilians and what U.N. monitors will be able to do, I’m joined by former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. He’s now CEO of the International Rescue Committee.

    David Miliband, welcome. I think it’s pretty self-evident, but why are these monitors necessary?

    DAVID MILIBAND, Former British Foreign Secretary: The simple reason for these monitors is that Aleppo has not just been a site of terrible death and destruction over the last few months. It’s also been the site of the destruction of basic norms of international humanitarian law, not just the besiegement or the randomized bombings of civilian centers, including a hospital supported by the International Rescue Committee, but also door-to-door, cold-blooded murder by militias working their way through the city.

    And I think it’s very important that there are people on the ground who can, by bearing witness or threatening to bear witness to what’s happening, try to put a stop to it.

    Everything that we’re seeing and hearing from people who have fled the city is that the fear levels are at terrifying levels.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But can they put a stop to it by monitoring?

    DAVID MILIBAND: I think that the monitoring on its own is only part of the answer.

    Obviously, there’s got to be a decision from the Syrian government, and their Russian backers, and the Hezbollah militias that have been working their way through the city, about what they’re going to do next. Obviously, the Russians voted for this resolution in the Security Council today. Some people were surprised by that.

    And if it does mean a halt to the terrible scenes that we have seen over the last week inside Aleppo, that’s obviously a step forward. The people that we’re meeting 20 kilometers to the west of Aleppo in the governorate of Idlib are concerned that they’re moving from one killing zone into another, because obviously the great fear is that the tactics that have been used in Aleppo are now deployed in Idlib, which is 1.9 million people across the whole governorate.

    The bombing, the murder, the great danger is that that flows with the people to the west.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I want to ask you about that, but when it comes to Aleppo, is it believed, is it understood that these monitors are going to be in a position to stop whatever indiscriminate killing or other terrible things are happening to these people as they leave?

    DAVID MILIBAND: Well, at best, they can bear witness to it. They’re obviously not in a position to intervene militarily.

    It’s not a U.N. peacekeeping force that has been deployed as a result of this resolution today. It’s a group of monitors who are unarmed and who are there to monitor the conduct of the security and other forces and report on it.

    Now, it is right and better for there to be some degree of international presence, but, obviously, that is cold comfort to very, very scared residents of Aleppo who have been the subject of this brutal assault not just over the last few weeks, but over the last few years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, to the point you were making a moment ago, David Miliband, the place where these evacuees are going, Idlib province, as we reported, is expected to be the next front in the government’s focus.

    Why are they any safer there than they were in Aleppo?

    DAVID MILIBAND: Well, I think that the words of the people who are fleeing tell it all. They say, we had to get out of hell.

    And they don’t know here — whether the place they’re going to is going to be any better, but there is a chance that it might. Idlib has a different composition, population composition, and a different group of rebel fighters who are dominant there.

    It’s an area that combines a large government with Idlib City, which is a confined urban area like Aleppo. It’s going to be a much tougher military effort, I think, on the part of the Syrian and the Russian forces.

    And the great plea — and I’m afraid it is only a plea from the international community at the moment — is that the tactics of bombardment, besiegement and then door-to-door murder are not deployed in Idlib.

    And in the absence of international military support, then it can only be a diplomatic plea that the way this war takes its next turn is going to be critical for whether any stability comes back to Syria in the future.

    You reported yourselves that ISIS have been resurgent in taking Palmyra.


    DAVID MILIBAND: And we know from history that the way wars are concluded is absolutely the key to whether or not there is any peace to be kept.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, I guess my question is, is there an expectation that what these monitors are doing in Aleppo could — they could just be moved next to Idlib to prevent the same kind of thing from happening there and then onto the next place where the government is moving in?

    DAVID MILIBAND: Well, the terrible truth of the last few weeks is that there has been plenty on social media and elsewhere explaining what’s been going on in Aleppo, but it’s not been possible to rally any kind of sufficient diplomatic, political or other pressure on those taking part in these activities to prevent the kind of horrific scenes that you broadcast last week and that are feared in the future.

    This is now a real test of whether or not the Russians and their Iranian backers are serious about winning a sustainable peace in Syria, whether they are serious about taking on some of the rebel elements who are affiliated with al-Qaida, or whether this is simply a pretense and a fig leaf for a wider attempt to drive large sections of the Syrian population out of their homes as part of a bloody attempt to restore order.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, do you believe they are serious, based on what you know?

    DAVID MILIBAND: Well, I have had — over the last five years of this conflict, the International Rescue Committee has had between 1,200 and 2,500 local staff on the ground through this.

    And it has been the most appalling descent into hell for all of the people who work for us. All of the norms under which international humanitarian organizations work have been violated. Never did I think we would see the day of U.N. convoys being bombed. And never did I think we would go back to the days when there seemed to be no accountability for the most grotesque abuses of human rights. So, I cannot — of even human life, never mind human rights.

    So, for me to sit here comfortably and tell you I’m confident about the future would be quite wrong. This is a desperate situation in Syria. I have got my own staff in the front line. And we’re desperate for the kind of coordinated and impactful political and diplomatic pressure that can ease some of the plight of the civilians and allow us to get on with our work.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David Miliband, the CEO of the International Rescue Committee, we thank you.

    DAVID MILIBAND: Thank you very much.

    The post Can UN monitors help protect Aleppo evacuees? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Protestors gather outside the chamber as Pennsylvania electors gather to cast their votes for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX2VPWQ

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: Here in the United States, the Electoral College confirmed that Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race. He was on track for 304 electoral votes, losing two defectors in Texas. Hillary Clinton lost four electors in Washington State. Otherwise, it went mostly as expected, despite a day of demonstrations.

    John Yang reports.

    JOHN YANG: Election Day, part two. In some states, protesters urged Electoral College voters to dump President-elect Trump. In Pennsylvania:

    ELSA LANKFORD, Anti-Trump Demonstrator: I’m here today because I feel like it’s the last chance we have to really save this country. I mean, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. I’m hoping we can make some kind of difference in the Electoral College.

    JOHN YANG: The outcome didn’t change, but controversy still swirls around evidence of Russian cyber-attacks aimed at influencing the election.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.): There’s no doubt they were interfering and no doubt that it was cyber-attacks. The question now is, how much and what damage and what should the United States of America do?

    JOHN YANG: Senator John McCain and fellow Republican Lindsey Graham have now joined with Democrats Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed to call for a special Senate committee to try to find the answers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says existing panels should handle the investigation.

    Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta suggested Trump aides may have colluded with Moscow.

    JOHN PODESTA, Former Clinton Campaign Chairman: What did Trump, Inc., know and when did they know it? Were they in touch with the Russians? I think those are still open questions.

    JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump’s incoming chief of staff said the president-elect isn’t convinced Russia was behind the hacking.

    REINCE PRIEBUS, Incoming White House Chief Of Staff: I think he would accept the conclusion if these intelligence professionals would get together, put out a report, show the American people that they’re actually on the same page, as opposed to third parties through The Washington Post.

    JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump is spending the Christmas holidays at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

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

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, the Trump transition team announced that he’s naming businessman and veteran Vincent Viola as secretary of the army.

    State legislators in North Carolina appear ready to repeal a law that curbs protections for transgender people. The Democratic governor-elect, Roy Cooper, announced it today. Republicans who supported the law said that they’re now open to repeal in a special session on Wednesday. The law has cost the state major sports events, concerts and corporate expansions.

    The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, was convicted today of financial negligence. A special French court found that she should have blocked a huge arbitration award to a business tycoon in 2008. Lagarde was French finance minister at the time. Despite the guilty verdict, the court opted against any punishment. That left Lagarde’s lawyers questioning the point of the proceedings.

    CHRISTOPHER BAKER, Attorney for Christine Lagarde: The result of this last five years is nothing, which leaves us in kind of a complicated or strange, again, situation. We have an unusual court, with an unusual hearing, with no accusation and no sentence. So, where are we exactly?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Late today, the IMF’s executive board decided to retain Lagarde as the managing director of the organization.

    In South Korea, the extortion trial of Choi Soon-sil opened today. She’s the longtime confidante of the now-impeached President Park Geun-hye. Choi appeared in court in Seoul wearing white prison clothes. She denied using her ties with Park to make big companies give millions to foundations she controlled. Park has received extensive immunity from prosecution. She, too, denies wrongdoing.

    Cities in the north of China were engulfed in a choking haze of air today, and the government issued a red alert for a third straight day. Hundreds of factories and schools were closed and restrictions on driving were in place. Many in Beijing wore face masks to try to keep the smog out of their lungs.

    LIU XUEYING, Beijing Resident (through translator): I think it’s very inconvenient for going out. I really don’t like putting on the face mask. I can’t go to the supermarket or take my child to play outside. We spent the last two days at home over this weekend.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: China’s severe air pollution is blamed on its heavy reliance on coal and carbon emissions from older cars.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Interior Department set final rules to limit damage from coal mining. They’d protect some 6,000 miles of streams by barring mining within 100 feet of the water. Industry officials, though, warn that the regulations will kill jobs, and the incoming Republican Congress could well vote to block them.

    The city of New Orleans today announced settlements in fatal shootings by police after Hurricane Katrina. Two people were shot dead on the Danziger Bridge, and a third at a strip mall. The settlements in those killings, and one before the hurricane, total more than $13 million.

    MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU, New Orleans: The city is here today to try to the extent that is humanly possible to bring closure to this dark, dark, dark time and to pledge that it shall never happen again, because, as I have said, change is going to come.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The settlements are with 17 plaintiffs who sued over the killings. In addition, 20 current or former New Orleans police officers were charged in federal civil rights investigations after Katrina. A number of them were convicted or pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

    President Obama today pardoned 79 people convicted of crimes and shortened the sentences for 153 others. It’s the most in a single day by any president. Mr. Obama has focused mainly on drug offenders. The White House says he has now pardoned or commuted the sentences for more than 1,300 people, more than any of his predecessors.

    Wall Street managed modest gains today. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 39 points to close at 19883. The Nasdaq rose 20, and the S&P 500 added four.

    And Zsa Zsa Gabor died Sunday in Los Angeles, after years of ill health. The Hungarian-born actress was known for her glamorous image and multiple marriages, including to hotel mogul Conrad Hilton in the 1940s.

    And she made divorce an art form, once quipping: “I am a marvelous Housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house.”

    Zsa Zsa Gabor was 99 years old.

    The post News Wrap: Electoral College confirms election of Donald Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A German police officer secures the site of an accident with a truck at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016.   REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch     - RTX2VQWZ

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s been a day of horror in the capital cities of Germany and Turkey.

    First Berlin, where a truck drove into a crowd of Christmas shoppers, leaving the street full of dead and wounded.

    We get more now from Ira Spitzer. He’s the Berlin bureau chief for Feature Story News.

    And a warning: Some images might be disturbing to some viewers.

    Let me start, Ira Spitzer, with this comment we just saw crossing the wires. And that is the German interior minister saying that more information now does seem to point to an act of terrorism. What do you know?

    IRA SPITZER, Feature Story News: Well, the Berlin police have confirmed that nine people have been killed in the scene of violence earlier in Berlin, and one of those — one of the dead was a passenger in that truck.

    In addition to the nine people who died, at least 50 others are injured, some seriously. So, the — as you mentioned there, the German interior minister saying that there are signs here that point to a terror attack. No one has come out and explicitly said that this was intentional, but we also heard from — the White House issued a statement not long ago, and they also referenced that this was possibly a terror attack.

    So, investigations are ongoing here in Berlin, trying to uncover what happened, but an important piece of information here, the driver, the suspected driver of the truck has been taken into custody. So much, of course, will hinge on who that person is and what they are able to uncover from him.

    But, at the moment, police have asked people to stay off the streets in Berlin. There is an ongoing rescue operation that’s happened at a Christmas market right near the heart of Berlin, so a tragic situation unfolding right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ira Spitzer, tell us a little bit more about where this happened. You describe it as a Christmas market. What exactly was the location, the situation?

    IRA SPITZER: So, this happened in the district of Charlottenburg, right near the Gedachtniskirche, which is a famous landmark here in Berlin.

    It is a church where they have not repaired the steeple from World War II, so it’s visited by many tourists throughout the course of the year, and this Christmas market is someplace where thousands of people congregate in the month leading up to the holidays here.

    People go there with their families. They eat, drink, do Christmas shopping. So, Christmas markets are a very big tradition in Germany, a much loved tradition in Germany. And there also has been a lot of speculation in the past few months that perhaps a Christmas market could be the target of a terror attack.

    So they have stepped up security across the board. However, at these open spaces like this, it is, of course, very difficult to predict and then to prevent an attack from taking place.

    Now, again, we don’t know a hundred percent that this was an intentional act. However, the authorities are certainly treating it as such right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ira Spitzer watching this unfolding story in Berlin for us, thank you very much.

    And, meantime, hours before that Berlin incident, the Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated by a lone gunman in Ankara. Andrey Karlov was addressing an art exhibition when a Turkish policeman in civilian clothes opened fire.

    He shouted slogans about Syria, where Russia’s military is heavily involved. The gunman later died in a shoot-out with police. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the attack.

    The post What we know about the attacks in Germany and Turkey appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Heroin is increasingly linked to drug overdose deaths in the United States, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, drug overdose deaths rose 23 percent between 2010 and 2014, the government report says. Photo illustration by Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    Heroin is increasingly linked to drug overdose deaths in the United States, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, drug overdose deaths rose 23 percent between 2010 and 2014, the government report says. Photo illustration by Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    Heroin deaths have soared in recent years while deaths from other opioids have remained relatively flat. Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic painkiller, is also on the rise.

    That’s according to a new study from the National Center for Health Statistics that, for the first time, isolated specific drugs linked to overdose deaths based on death certificate data.

    More than 47,000 people died of drug overdose in the United States in 2014 at a rate of 14.7 deaths per 100,000 people, more than double the rate reported 15 years earlier, according to the study. And in 2014, heroin use was linked to nearly a quarter of those deaths.

    When government researchers study drug overdose deaths, they typically use broad categories, such as opioids or stimulants. This time, they identified individual drugs tied to overdose deaths, based on information entered by coroners and medical examiners on death certificates between 2010 and 2014, said Holly Hedegaard, an injury epidemiologist and public health physician at the center.

    “The granularity gives us a better picture of which drugs are involved,” said Margaret Warner, an epidemiologist with the center who has studied these trends for more than a decade.

    Officials are getting better at identifying individual drugs on death certificates, she said, adding that lawmakers might use these numbers to inform policies and programs that target such substances.

    One surprise for Hedegaard was how often the overdoses involved more than one drug. In 2014, of the nearly 37,000 overdose deaths where officials listed at least one drug on death certificates, almost half — 48 percent — involved two or more specific drugs, according to the report.

    The number of people who overdose on heroin and then die has soared in recent years, the center reported. In 2010, oxycodone was responsible for the most drug overdose deaths — more than 5,200 — in the United States. At the same time, more than 3,000 people died after taking heroin, which ranked fifth in overdose deaths. By 2014, fatal overdoses of heroin more than tripled to nearly 11,000 deaths, more than any other single drug and 23 percent of all drug overdose deaths.

    Nationwide, heroin deaths exceeded gun homicides, the CDC recently reported in a separate study. And now, officials are keeping an eye on fentanyl, a more potent opioid connected to 4,200 people’s deaths and has steadily climbing up the ranks.

    The post Heroin deaths soar compared to other opioids, new study shows appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Sparks of electricity emanating from a Tesla coil at the Mendeleyevskaya metro station in Moscow, Russia, January 24, 2016. Photo by REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

    Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from John Wasik’s new book, “Lightning Strikes: Timeless Lessons in Creativity from the Life and Work of Nikola Tesla” (Sterling, 2016), slightly edited for this column.

    World-changing inventions made Nikola Tesla a celebrity in his own time, but something otherworldly makes him transcend his era and remain a perpetual beacon for our civilization 70 years after his death.

    He’s now an immortal rock star, an icon for billionaires, cyberpunks, artists and “maker” inventors who are still fiddling with everyday machines in their basements and garages. Search engine designers, energy czars, musicians, artists and creators everywhere feel his influence. He’s our Leonardo, the Shakespeare of invention.

    He’s our Leonardo, the Shakespeare of invention.

    A car, a rock band and a unit of magnetic measurement have been named after Tesla. You can talk to anyone who has enjoyed any mad scientist scene in any science fiction or horror movie and see his Tesla coil pulsing electricity like a dynamic spider web of electrons.

    Tesla is energy, meters, dials, lightning bolts and the robot-drone master. He’s patron saint, discoverer and wronged entrepreneur. A prophet dishonored in his own time, but revered in ours. To some of his latter-day followers, it’s as if Tesla never died, instead living on as a techno-mystic deity.

    Tesla broke the rules to become one of the most successful inventors of all time. To call Tesla just an inventor, though, is to understate his thorough understanding of how energy, science and world peace could co-exist. His was a mind burning with powerful ideas that have resonated and become amplified since his passing in 1943. He’s now seen as a visionary who wanted to marry technology with world peace.

    READ MORE: Column: How intellectual property rules help the rich and hurt the poor

    Few of his Tesla’s peers have attracted such devotion, making him an object of cult-like veneration.

    New Agers insist that he talked with alien worlds (or was an alien himself), while conspiracy theorists think his idea of a “death ray” that could blast planes out of the sky was eventually developed by the Pentagon and that the government has been keeping it a secret for nearly 70 years. Over the years, Tesla’s technology has been blamed for everything from destroying Siberian forests to Hurricane Katrina.

    To call Tesla just an inventor, though, is to understate his thorough understanding of how energy, science and world peace could co-exist.

    Today, there are few stronger, sexier brands than Tesla. In our day, Tesla’s achievements have come to overshadow those of his nemesis Thomas Edison, who worked manically, and completely failed, to defeat Tesla’s operating system for the global electrical grid (alternating current). And yet, for all of Tesla’s status among cultists and all the relevance of his inventions to our modern lives, it is Edison who still continues to be remembered as an American hero.

    Unlike Edison, Tesla was chimeric; that is, he was like the ancient, mythical beast that was part lion, dragon and snake. (In the Greek myth, the monster is slain by the hero Bellerophon, who rides Pegasus, but later falls from the winged horse.) Metaphorically, to become chimeric is to embody different kinds of human creativity; chimeric transformation is what Tesla showed us, who endured many trials of fire as he transformed himself from an electrical engineer fixing Edison’s early projects to the systemic thinker who was dreaming up solutions for universal clean energy and world peace. A disruptive innovator, he set the tone for generations.

    READ MORE: Why are most inventors men?

    What does Tesla offer for today’s global economy? The inventor looked at changing entire systems. How can we more efficiently move power and information? Remember the electrical grid is antiquated and based on century-old technology.

    What about the creative process needed to provoke disruptive innovation? Tesla showed us that we need to visualize what we need to do, then draw or animate designs and make models — and tinker with them.

    Failure, by the way, is a key part of the learning process, something that we don’t embrace too readily in Western culture.

    Break it down, rebuild it, make it better. That applies to everything from urban transportation to the political machines that need to be re-engineered to provide broadly shared prosperity and a spiritual economics.

    The Maker Faire movement, for example, is promoting this process through 3-D printing, robotics and coding. I’ve been to several Maker Faires and I love the way kids come in and just play with things to see how they work. That’s the future of innovation, not manically teaching to standardized tests, offering more PowerPoint presentations or browbeating students into getting perfect grades.

    Granted, nearly every major system is in need of reinvention, which is a key component of Tesla’s creative machine. Break it down, rebuild it, make it better. That applies to everything from urban transportation to the political machines that need to be re-engineered to provide broadly shared prosperity and a spiritual economics. It’s Tesla-like innovation that will engender a more compassionate capitalism and political systems.

    READ MORE: 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Nikola Tesla

    The post Column: If Tesla was the real visionary, why does Edison get all the glory? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Rockefeller Center is lit up to reflect the results of the U.S. electoral college votes in New York on November 9, 2016. Photo by Mark Kauzlarich/REUTERS

    Rockefeller Center is lit up to reflect the results of the U.S. electoral college votes in New York on November 9, 2016. Photo by Mark Kauzlarich/REUTERS

    Despite coming up 2.86 million votes short, President-elect Donald Trump was awarded 306 Electoral College votes on Monday — more than enough to become the next president of the United States.

    But while Trump and his top aides have described his Electoral College margin as a “landslide” and a “blowout,” these claims are simply not true. When compared to the previous 57 elections, Trump barely eked out a win, securing 57 percent of the Electoral College vote.

    Trump repeated the landslide claim on Monday after the Electoral College voted to put him over the 270-vote threshold needed to secure the White House.

    Even Abraham Lincoln won a greater percentage of electoral votes (with 59.4 percent) than Trump in the 1860 election, when the country was on the brink of the Civil War.

    In fact, Trump ranks 46th out of 58 in terms of winning the electoral vote — a spot far down on the list, sandwiched between Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy’s narrow 1960 win.

    Ronald Reagan’s 1984 victory marked the most recent electoral landslide. He won 97.6 percent of the electoral votes after carrying every state in the nation except for Minnesota. Bill Clinton won 70 percent of the electoral vote in 1966. President Obama’s electoral margins rank 32nd (in 2008), and 37th (in 2012).

    Even Abraham Lincoln won a greater percentage of electoral votes (with 59.4 percent) than Trump in the 1860 election, when the country was on the brink of the Civil War.

    George W. Bush’s 50.4 percent electoral vote total in 2000 ranks 56 out of 58. (The only two elections that produced smaller margins are 1824 and 1876; both ended in an Electoral College tie and were decided by the House).

    In the lead up to yesterday’s Electoral College vote, critics revived the long-running debate over a system designed by Alexander Hamilton more than two centuries ago.

    Hamilton made his case for the Electoral College in Federalist No. 68, writing that the system would protect the country from electing a president with “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity.”

    Under the constitution, states are awarded electors based on their number of U.S. senators and House members, with one elector for each member of a state’s congressional delegation.

    The system was designed to compensate for less-populous slave-holding states. Although slaves were not considered citizens by law, they were counted towards a state’s population under the Three-Fifths Compromise. Ever since then, critics have argued that voters in less populous states have an outsized voice in elections.

    More than two centuries later, there’s no justification for keeping the system around, said George Edwards III, an author of a book about the Electoral College and political science professor at Texas A&M.

    “The Electoral College opposes the fundamental principles of democracy,” Edwards said. “That each vote counts equally, and whoever wins the most votes, wins.”

    Following Trump’s victory, movements like the Hamilton Electors sought to sway electors to vote for someone other than Trump. Ultimately, only four so-called “faithless electors” on the Republican side switched their votes. (Four Democratic electors backed someone other than Hillary Clinton).

    “These types of campaigns have happened in the past,” said Robert Alexander, a political science professor at Ohio Northern University. “It’s not something that’s wholly new, [it’s] just more public and visible” this year than usual.

    The American Civil Liberties Union has opposed the Electoral College since 1969, arguing that the system gives disproportionate power to states with small populations.

    “A voter in Wyoming thus has over three times as much influence on the presidential election as a voter in more densely populated California,” ACLU President Susan Herman wrote in a column on Monday.

    Currently, 29 states require their electors to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote. But Alexander predicted that more states would follow suit and pass laws to deter “faithless electors” in the future.

    Since the election, multiple Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation to abolish the system. But a constitutional amendment to eliminate the Electoral College is a longshot at best: there have been more than 700 proposals in the past two centuries to change or end the Electoral College system, and all have failed.

    A change in response to the 2016 election isn’t likely, several experts said. It helps that Trump and his supporters have backed the system since his Nov. 8 win.

    But Trump’s claims of a landslide are a far cry from his previous position on the Electoral College. During the campaign, the president-elect repeatedly said that the system was “rigged.” And that wasn’t the first time Trump slammed the system.

    After the 2012 election, Trump took to Twitter to question the system that would ultimately propel him to the Oval Office. “The electoral college,” Trump wrote, “is a disaster for democracy.”

    The post Why Trump’s Electoral College win is hardly a ‘landslide’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Working parents in D.C. could look forward to new paid family leave laws. Photo by Getty Images

    Working parents in D.C. could look forward to new paid family leave laws. Photo by Getty Images

    In a 9-4 vote Tuesday afternoon, the D.C. City Council approved one of the most generous paid family leave plans in the country. Tuesday’s vote also rejected an 11th-hour proposed amendment to the bill that would change funding for the benefits.

    Granted preliminary approval on Dec. 6, the council voted in favor of the Universal Paid-Leave Amendment Act, which gives eight weeks of leave to new parents, six for caring for a gravely ill member of the family, and two for personal sick leave.

    With today’s vote, the paid leave program will be funded by a new business tax that would raise $250 million a year to cover costs.

    Mayor Muriel Bowser has not said if she would veto the bill. If she does not veto the bill, it could become law without her signature, the Washington Post has noted.

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

    On Monday, Democrats Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) proposed new terms that kept the same paid leave times of the original bill, but changed how the benefits would be funded.

    Instead of a public insurance plan footing the bill, the two council members proposed an amendment that the benefits be paid for by an individual-employer mandate, meaning employers will agree to pay for parental leave when employees need to access it. Additionally, tax credits for small businesses would help cover the cost of the benefits.

    Evans and Cheh have said the revised bill would cost $40 million a year as opposed to the estimated $250 million in the original version, the Post reported.

    Council Chairman Phil Mendelson wrote the original version of the bill, which Cheh voted for and Evans voted against earlier this month. Mendelson was critical of the new proposal, saying the cost plan doesn’t work without a new tax to cover the program’s financial burden.

    Mayor Muriel Bowser, whose office would oversee the leave program, has fought the bill in the past, criticizing the millions of dollars it would take to set up the program. However, she told the Post on Monday that she would probably support the revised bill.

    The D.C. Chamber of Commerce has always opposed the bill, proposed initially in 2015, saying D.C. business taxes would pay for workers in Maryland or Virginia. A former D.C. Council member wrote in the Post that more than 60 percent who would benefit from the legislation live outside the District.

    Before the vote, several businesses and groups came out in support of the alternate legislation, as shown by a recent full-page ad in the Post.

    Economist Christopher Ruhm told the NewsHour last year that businesses in California, which became the first state to enact a paid family leave law, reported either “positive or, at worst, neutral effects.”

    [Watch Video]

    The United States and Papua New Guinea are the only countries in the world that do not provide any paid time off for new mothers. Why haven’t maternity leave laws kept pace with the increase of working parents? Economics correspondent Paul Solman explores the debate on whether time off for new parents is also good for business.

    Some small businesses also expressed their support for a family leave program, while a 2015 poll found that more than 80 percent of D.C. voters would want similar proposals.

    Seven of the 13 council members were needed to vote in favor of the paid leave bill for it to become law.

    The vote came after the presidential election, when President-elect Donald Trump became the first Republican candidate to put a focus on paid family leave and child-care assistance. During the campaign, Trump suggested a six-week paid leave for mothers, while his opponent Hillary Clinton called for 12 weeks of paid leave.

    Besides Papua New Guinea, the U.S. lags behind every country in the world in terms of paid leave for child care. But the D.C. plan offers more time and wage reimbursement than any other plan in the U.S.

    California was the first state to offer a paid family leave plan in 2004. New Jersey and Rhode Island soon followed, while New York’s plan begins in 2018.

    The post D.C. Council passes one of the nation’s most generous paid family leave bills appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    CERN's ALPHA project traps antimatter particles before they can bump into and be annihilated by regular matter. Photo by CERN

    CERN’s ALPHA project traps antimatter particles before they can bump into and be annihilated by regular matter. Photo by CERN

    It is a particularly exciting time to be a physicist, particularly in Australia. In mid-2012, the Higgs boson was discovered at CERN, and physicists from Melbourne contributed to the development of the ATLAS detector that participated in the discovery.

    Then came the first direct detection of gravitational waves in early 2016, with Australian contributors from the University of Adelaide, the Australian National University and the University of Western Australia.

    Now, just reported in Nature, is another breakthrough in fundamental physics, this time concerning antimatter. And this is another area where Australian researchers have been very active.

    The researchers at CERN managed to isolate several atoms of antihydrogen – the antimatter analogue of hydrogen – and measure its properties with unprecedented accuracy.

    While Australian researchers were not formally part of this experimental program, we have been providing calculations that show how to increase substantially the number of antihydrogen atoms made.

    Artist's impression of a cloud of trapped antihydrogen atoms. Illustration by Chukman So/CERN

    Artist’s impression of a cloud of trapped antihydrogen atoms. Illustration by Chukman So/CERN

    Mysterious matter

    Why the interest in antihydrogen, or antimatter in general? It turns out that along with dark energy and dark matter, the existence of antimatter is quite a mystery to physicists.

    The biggest puzzle is why there is so much matter in the universe, and so little antimatter. It would have been much easier to explain if there were equal amounts of matter and antimatter in the universe, or none at all.

    The Standard Model predicts equal amounts of antimatter and matter being created by the Big Bang, but in reality there is a tiny amount of antimatter compared to matter. Why is this so? No one knows, and a Nobel Prize awaits whoever solves this problem.

    It gets even more interesting, though. As there is no unification between quantum mechanics and general relativity, we have no reason to believe that antimatter will behave in a gravitational field in the same way as does matter.

    This is something that physicists would very much like to test. But to do so, we need to create a substantial quantity of antimatter.

    It also needs to be electrically neutral, so that any effect of gravity on the antimatter isn’t overwhelmed by the far more powerful electromagnetic force. Antihydrogen is a great candidate for this experiment because it has no electric charge.

    The interest of the Gravitational Behaviour of Antihydrogen at Rest (GBAR) group at CERN is observing how antihydrogen behaves under gravity. If it falls, just like ordinary hydrogen, not much will be learned regarding the asymmetry of matter and antimatter in the universe. On the other hand, if it goes up, the foundation of physics will need a rethink!

    The ALPHA2 apparatus at CERN is helping to understand antimatter. Photo by CERN

    The ALPHA2 apparatus at CERN is helping to understand antimatter. Photo by CERN

    Elusive anti-atoms

    Another way to study antimatter is to examine its structure.

    We already know a lot about the behaviour of matter, such as the way electrons move between the shells around the nucleus. We have measured the amount of energy required to bump an electron from the innermost, 1 shell, and the next, 2 shell, with startling precision – out to 15 significant figures.

    If the same transition can be measured in antihydrogen to a similar level of precision, then perhaps we will gain a clue to matter-antimatter asymmetry for the first time.

    In physics, when we perform experiments, the measurements are repeated many times to ensure that the results are statistically significant. This is not so easy when it comes to working with antihydrogen.

    When matter and antimatter come together they annihilate, creating a massive amount of energy (as described by Einstein’s famous E=mc² formula). One practical benefit is in positron emission tomography (PET) scans for cancer detection.

    PET uses the annihilation of positrons (antielectrons) with electrons to create gamma rays that we can use to determine the position of the cancer in the body.

    In the new experiment at CERN, the number of antihydrogen atoms initially created is around 25,000. But only about a dozen of these were trapped and could be examined closely.

    Nevertheless, that was sufficient to measure the 1 shell to 2 shell transition of an electron to an accuracy of 10 significant figures, all of which agree with the ordinary hydrogen case.

    Jeffrey Hangst, physicist and spokesperson of the ALPHA collaboration, said "Using a laser to observe a transition in antihydrogen and comparing it to hydrogen to see if they obey the same laws of physics has always been a key goal of antimatter research." Photo by Maximilien Brice/CERN

    Jeffrey Hangst, physicist and spokesperson of the ALPHA collaboration, said “Using a laser to observe a transition in antihydrogen and comparing it to hydrogen to see if they obey the same laws of physics has always been a key goal of antimatter research.” Photo by Maximilien Brice/CERN

    Antimatter down under

    Though there have not been any surprises thus far, the next goal is to increase substantially the number of trapped antihydrogen atoms so we can form the gravitational and spectroscopic experiments with considerably improved precision.

    This is where our research on how to produce more antihydrogen atoms comes in. Antihydrogen is typically made by bringing together positronium – a short-lived bound state of a positron and an electron – together with antiprotons that are chilled to less than a degree above absolute zero.

    We showed that if the positronium is initially prepared in a more electrically excited state, as can be routinely done with modern lasers, then the number of antihydrogen atoms created will increase by several orders of magnitude.

    This process is currently under development at CERN, and we look forward to seeing one of the longstanding problems in physics – matter-antimmatter asymmetry – being tackled head-on by the teamwork of experimental and theoretical physicists.

    The Conversation

    Igor Bray is head of physics, astronomy and medical radiation science at Curtin University. He receives funding from the Australian Research Council. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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    A man on a stand up paddle board is seen in front of the Shell Oil Company's drilling rig Polar Pioneer along the Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Matt Mills McKnight/Reuters

    A man on a stand up paddle board is seen in front of the Shell Oil Company’s drilling rig Polar Pioneer along the Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Matt Mills McKnight/Reuters

    HONOLULU — President Barack Obama on Tuesday designated the bulk of U.S.-owned waters in the Arctic Ocean and certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean as indefinitely off limits to future oil and gas leasing.

    The move helps put some finishing touches on Obama’s environmental legacy while also testing President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to unleash the nation’s untapped energy reserves.

    The White House announced the actions in conjunction with the government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which also placed a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in its Arctic waters, subject to periodic review.

    Obama is making use of an arcane provision in a 1953 law to ban offshore leases in the waters permanently. The statute says that “the president of the United States may, from time to time, withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf.”

    Environmental groups hope the ban, despite relying on executive powers, will be difficult for future presidents to reverse. The White House said it’s confident the president’s directive will withstand legal challenge and said the language of the statute provides no authority for subsequent presidents to “unwithdraw” waters from future lease sales.

    The Atlantic waters placed off limits to new oil and gas leasing are 31 canyons stretching off the coast of New England south to Virginia.

    The administration cited environmental concerns to justify the moratorium. The president also issued a statement noting the minimal level of fuel production occurring in the Arctic. Obama said just 0.1 percent of offshore crude production came from the Arctic in 2015, and at current oil prices, significant production would not occur in future decades.

    “That’s why looking forward, we must continue to focus on economic empowerment for Arctic communities beyond this one sector,” Obama said.

    Still, industry officials objected to Obama’s proclamation, calling it “last minute political rhetoric.”

    “Instead of building on our nation’s position as a global energy leader, today’s unilateral mandate could put America back on a path of energy dependence for decades to come,” said Dan Naatz of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

    In issuing a permanent ban, Obama appears to be trying to tie the hands of his successor. Trump has vowed a domestic energy revolution and is filling his Cabinet with nominees deeply opposed to Obama’s environmental and climate change actions.

    Environmental groups were calling for a permanent ban even before the presidential election, but Trump’s victory has provided greater urgency for them and for businesses that rely on tourism and fishing. Trump has said he intends to use all available fuel reserves for energy self-sufficiency — and that it’s time to open up offshore drilling.

    This decision will help protect existing lucrative coastal tourism and fishing businesses from offshore drilling, which promises smaller, short-lived returns and threatens coastal livelihoods,” said Jacqueline Savitz, a senior vice president at the advocacy group, Oceana. “The people of the Atlantic coast refused to allow their way of life to be compromised and we commend their hard work making their voices heard in Washington.”

    Associated Press writers Josh Lederman in Washington and Jason Dearen in Gainesville, Florida, contributed to this report.

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    Bruce Springsteen sat down with PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown for a wide-ranging, 40-minute interview about his memoir, his approach to songwriting and how he now reflects back on his early life.

    This interview first aired on the PBS NewsHour in two parts. Watch part 1 here and part 2 here.

    For more, watch Springsteen read an excerpt from his memoir about the night he moved away from his childhood home, and don’t miss him talk about how performing music helps the megastar battle depression.

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    U.S. singer Bruce Springsteen performs during his Wrecking Ball Tour in Mexico City November 10, 2012. REUTERS/Violeta Schmidt (MEXICO - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT) - RTR3BFRG

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    WATCH: Bruce Springsteen, our complete interview

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, part two of Jeffrey Brown’s conversation with Bruce Springsteen.

    The working-class rock ‘n’ roll hero talks about his lifelong bouts of depression, his love of reading, and the election of Donald Trump.

    JEFFREY BROWN: On a visit with Bruce Springsteen at his home in rural New Jersey, most of the talk, of course, was about music, the core of his life and career.

    But part of the story he tells about his rise to the world stage also involved books, what he describes in his memoir as his self-education.

    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: I think, when I discovered the Russian guys, they were — that was…

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Russians did it?


    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: That was the big thing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You mean like the big hitters, like Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy and those guys?

    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: The big hitters, yes.

    Yes, when I got into “Anna Karenina” and “Brothers Karamazov” and “Crime and Punishment,” that was the stuff that — that had a big effect on me, because it was so psychological.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Does your reading affect your writing as a songwriter?

    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: I think it affects you internally in a way that’s not immediately evident, but that it simply increases your frame of reference.

    You learn more about the craft of writing, what good writing feels like. But, mostly, it just enlarges you as an individual.

    The one thing I wished for my children is that they’d be readers. And…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, and are they, because that’s what I was going to ask you, because, nowadays..


    JEFFREY BROWN: They’re not.


    JEFFREY BROWN: Their father didn’t make himself a reader until around 30, so the kids, in their 20s, still have time.

    By that point, Springsteen had become a major rock star. But, in his 30s, he also suffered a serious bout of depression, something he would struggle with throughout his life, including an episode as recently as his early 60s, all while keeping up a rigorous touring and recording career.

    Springsteen, now 67, credits his wife, Patti, and years of counseling and antidepressants with getting him through. He writes candidly of these struggles in his new memoir.

    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: It was a big enough part of my life to where it felt like it needed to be included in the book, you know?

    And, also, I think it was an insight into some of your creative fire, where it comes from. I wrote — the premise of the book was to give my audience an insight into how I created, and what were — what’s the fuel for the fire.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You see them as combined, twined. There’s a kind of trope of many artists of creativity and madness.

    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Mental illness and creativity are — it’s a thin line in between the two. I tend to believe that.

    I don’t know many artists who are not crazy. Most of the artists I know are crazy in one way or another. I think that’s why you get into it. You’re in pursuit of a certain sort of peace that’s very, very, very difficult to come by.

    And I realized the only time I felt complete and peaceful was while I was playing or shortly afterwards, even though it was in front of thousands of other people, which most people wouldn’t consider to be a safe place. For me…

    JEFFREY BROWN: No, they wouldn’t. So, why is that a safe place?

    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: For me, it’s always been.

    For me, once I count the band in, and I delve deep into my song, I feel a certain sort of integrity and integration that I rarely find in my daily life.

    It’s better now than it used to be, but it’s still something that, if I want to deeply experience it, I walk on stage, I play, I perform, I create, I write. And that’s where sort of that peace comes over me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As he matured as an artist, Springsteen’s music took on issues of the political culture, Vietnam, poverty, those left behind in the 2008 recession.

    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: I integrated it because politics and life go hand in hand. And so it needed to be a part of my music.

    Thus, the different social forces that affected my parents’ lives or my friends’ lives or I saw around me became essential for me to write about.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He also became more up front in his own politics, joining Barack Obama on the campaign trail, and, in the recent election, supporting Hillary Clinton.

    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: I was going around the world swearing — I was betting on Hillary, going around the world, interview after interview.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And you were wrong, like many people.


    JEFFREY BROWN: But what explains it?

    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: I think a lot of things.

    I think that people with legitimate concerns about how — how are you going to live, how are you going to — where are you going to find your jobs? Deindustrialization that I have written about for 40 years left a good part of the American public behind.

    And I think if somebody comes up and simply says, your jobs? I’m going to bring them back. You’re not comfortable with the browning of America? I’m going to build a wall. ISIS, I’m going to defeat them.

    Those are very — it’s a simple, but it was a compelling message for a lot of people. And…

    JEFFREY BROWN: But these are the people that you have been writing about for all those years.

    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Yes, that’s true.

    READ MORE: Bruce Springsteen tells the story of the night he left home at 19 years old

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, did you lose touch with them? Did they lose touch with you?

    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: It was just a very divided country, you know, a very divided country. And I don’t really know another way to explain it.

    While I didn’t think that Donald Trump’s message was credible enough to affect the vote to that degree, I was wrong, and it was.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In this book, you often talk about telling your story, but also telling our story, which has come through in your music, right, telling a story of this country.


    JEFFREY BROWN: How do we bridge divides in this country?

    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: I think you can’t demonize somebody that’s on the other side of the political spectrum, or you can’t generalize about them.

    I know people on both sides of that particular divide. And they just have a different opinion about it. So, I think that maybe look outside your own daily experience also, which is something that, as a writer, that was sort of something that meant a great deal to me.

    That’s probably — I mean, that’s been my story over — to tell over the past 40 years. And there’s common ground in it. But it’s going to take a while to see where it goes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In the meantime, the music continues. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band head to Australia and New Zealand at the beginning of the new year.

    From Central New Jersey, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the “PBS NewsHour.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A remarkable, rare interview with that man.

    You can watch the full 40-minute interview with Bruce Springsteen on our home page, PBS.org/NewsHour.

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    QUALITY REPEAT A sign is seen next to a water dispenser at North Western high school in Flint, a city struggling with the effects of lead-poisoned drinking water, in Michigan May 4, 2016.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTX2CVJ1

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As we reported earlier, Michigan’s attorney general filed criminal charges against city officials in Flint for operating that city’s water systems in an unsafe manner.

    Well, it turns out Flint is not alone in having a lead contamination problem. Two recent news investigation find two startling numbers. A Reuters investigation of lead levels in blood found nearly 3,000 areas in the country with contamination levels higher than those in Flint.

    And a USA Today report found that some four million Americans get water from utilities that do not meet federal safe drinking water standards.

    Laura Ungar was a lead reporter on the USA Today investigation. And she joins me now.

    Laura Ungar, welcome to the program.

    You and your colleagues focused on smaller communities around the country. Why?

    LAURA UNGAR, USA Today: Well, we wanted to look at the problem beyond Flint and look to see just how big the scope was.

    And so, basically, we looked at where the problem was the worst, and we found that, in these small water systems, which are generally located in rural areas, small, remote communities, the problem was worse in those communities.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And give us an example of what you found. You got a number of families you write about in this series.


    For example, one family in Ranger, Texas, they have a situation where their 2-year-old son has high levels of lead in his blood. And they lived there for about a year, almost a year, before finding out from a citywide letter that they had high lead in their city, in their city’s water supply.

    And then they — actually, their tap was tested, and they didn’t find out the results of that from the city. They found it out from me, actually. I told them the levels that were found in their own tap.

    So — and they were very upset about that situation, because, you know, their son is 2, and he’s facing high lead, which, as you know, just causes all sorts of problems with children.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, again, it wasn’t just this one small community. You found something like four million Americans affected.

    LAURA UNGAR: Yes, it’s more than four million.

    That four million is places where — or people affected by places that either tested improperly or skipped tests. There are even more than that when you talk about where high lead has been found and, in some cases, has not been fixed.



    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sorry. Didn’t mean to interrupt.

    But why is it that some of these smaller communities don’t have the stringent regulations that larger population areas do?

    LAURA UNGAR: What — the rationale that I have heard for the difference in the rules is the resource difference.

    There’s a vastly different — vastly different resources between the large water systems in big cities and these small water systems which only serve a few thousand people. I mean, some of them are run by folks who may have another full-time job.

    We found one place where, for example, a farmer/rancher ran a water system in his spare time. And he tried his best, but it’s part-time thing. And that’s a much different situation than in a large water system, where you might have very educated folks and large staffs dealing with water quality.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, finally, who is responsible? The Environmental Protection Agency, I know you talked to them. What do they say? How do they explain it?

    LAURA UNGAR: They — there’s layers of responsibility.

    First of all, there’s the utility. There’s the states that are supposed to be enforcing those federal safe drinking water standards. And then, ultimately, the buck stops at the EPA.

    The EPA does tell me that they are focusing on these small water systems, that they do hope to make improvements in this area. But it’s a multifaceted problem, and with no easy answers at all.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, some excellent reporting. And I know you are going to be following up on that.

    Laura Ungar with USA Today, thank you.

    LAURA UNGAR: Thank you.

    The post Investigations reveal startling scope of lead in drinking water appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: But first: a story about an effort in Flint, Michigan, to help its youngest residents cope with the possible effects of lead-contaminated water.

    It’s part of our weekly series on education, Making the Grade.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: More than a year after alarmingly high levels of lead were found in Flint’s water supply, the city has opened a free all-day early childhood center for children 2 months to 5 years of age.

    BOB BARNETT, University of Michigan, Flint: It’s for any children currently living in Flint or were living in Flint when lead exposure was at its worst.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Bob Barnett, a dean of education for the University of Michigan in Flint, helped create the new early learning program.

    BOB BARNETT: We made phone calls. We went door to door to every single neighborhood in the city.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Barnett had a mission, to reach families with the youngest children. That’s because lead is a neurotoxin that targets the developing brain.

    DR. MONA HANNA-ATTISHA, Hurley Medical Center: A child’s brain doubles in size from zero to 2. And when you have these insults to the developing brain at such a young age, it really impacts that entire trajectory of learning.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician who discovered elevated lead levels in Flint’s children, says there’s a well-established link between lead exposure and learning disabilities.

    DR. MONA HANNA-ATTISHA: Lead has been shown to drop children’s I.Q., so it impacts how they think, and it impacts how they act. It has been linked to attention-deficit disorder, impulsivity, many other developmental delays. And so it has these life-course-altering consequences.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: More than 5,000 of Flint’s youngest children were put in danger when the city switched to a new water source, the Flint River, in the spring of 2014, causing lead from aging pipes to leach into the system.

    Since then, Flint officials have switched back to Lake Huron for their water supply, and although lead levels have been dramatically reduced, residents are still urged to use bottled or filtered water for everything from drinking to bathing.

    The lead exposure lasted only 18 months, but health officials say a threat still exists.

    DR. MONA HANNA-ATTISHA: Imagine these little babies who were on formula, and all they’re getting is this lead-tainted water mixed with powdered formula for the entire year, not that they’re all going to have problems. And we’re not going to wait to see who is going to have problems.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Hanna-Attisha sees the new child care facility as a needed intervention.

    DR. MONA HANNA-ATTISHA: The most important medication that I can prescribe to our Flint kids is early education. People are like, you’re a doctor. Don’t you want like, you know, health care stuff? I’m like, no, I want early education.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The center is an expansion of a high-quality program called Great Expectations Early Childhood run by the University of Michigan in Flint.

    BOB BARNETT: We know that lead exposure, especially in our youngest children, birth to 5, affects their cognition and their behavior. We also know that the impact of early childhood education and intervention can counter that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The free program has been able to accommodate 240 children. Another 220 families remain on the waitlist.

    Major donations from 10 foundations, as well as millions from the state of Michigan, cover tuition costs as high as $15,000 to $20,000 per child per year.

    Joyce Sanders says she and her husband could not have afforded the program for their 3-year-old daughter, Nyla. Sanders is anxious to protect her child’s ability to learn.

    JOYCE SANDERS, Flint Parent: She’s so incredibly bright. And it’s terrifying to think that this exposure could take that away from her. It is terrifying. And I’m trying to do everything I can to give her the resources, so that she can hold on to that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Nyla and her 5-year-old sister, Kaia, both tested positive for low levels of lead in their blood.

    But because lead has a short window of detection in the bloodstream, Sanders is unsure how much her children ingested.

    JOYCE SANDERS: I don’t really know what their exposure level is. Every time they get anything, I’m worried: Is this something that I’m missing?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Like many parents in Flint, the experience has left Sanders feeling uneasy.

    JOYCE SANDERS: I have noticed with my daughter Nyla, she can sometimes get upset, and it’s very, very hard to calm her down. And that just may be one of those quirky things, or it could mean something. And if it means something, that’s huge. And so those type of things are always in the back of my mind.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Great Expectations uses the Reggio Emilia teaching approach, which emphasizes emotional well-being, something educators believe is a good fit for kids with possible lead exposure.

    Lead teacher Katie McCormack:

    KATIE MCCORMACK, Teacher, Cummings Great Expectations: We’re working a lot with impulse control, so everyone can listen, everyone can take turns and pay attention. We really want to just see where they are at developmentally.

    DR. MONA HANNA-ATTISHA: These early childhood teachers are actually brain builders. They’re building these kids’ neural connections. It is unethical for us to sit back and wait and study these kids in five, 10 years, and say, oh, look at the impact of lead exposure.

    We must be proactive. We must be preventative.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The new center is housed in one of Flint’s shuttered elementary schools. The city’s school enrollment has declined dramatically since the 1980s, when car manufacturing jobs started disappearing.

    Flint school’s superintendent, Bilal Tawwab.

    BILAL TAWWAB, Superintendent, Flint Community Schools: Right now, we have only 5,000 kids in Flint Community Schools. At one time, there was about 50,000 kids. Actually, we have more closed buildings than open buildings.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: More than 40 percent of Flint’s residents live below the poverty line. And Superintendent Tawwab says using vacant buildings for early education coupled with good nutrition will better prepare Flint’s children.

    BILAL TAWWAB: I would like to believe this is just the start of some very, very important work.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But while educators hope to expand the program, there’s only enough money to serve 240 of the 5,000 to 6,000 children in the city. And even those slots are operating on limited three-years grants.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Hari Sreenivasan.

    The post After Flint’s lead crisis, the ‘most important medication’ for kids is education appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    birth control pills

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we have a story about possible changes as a result of the election.

    Some American women say they fear they could lose their access to birth control once President-elect Trump takes office. Trump has pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which includes free contraceptives.

    He hasn’t said what would replace it, and that’s why the women in this story are taking action.

    Correspondent Lisa Desjardins has the story.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Morning in Baltimore, oven-baked biscuits and a warm moment for Victoria Cross and fiance Cameron Okeke.

    Today, Victoria’s getting an IUD, or intrauterine device, a form of birth control that works for several years. The young couple isn’t shy about their family planning. They can’t be. Twenty-three-year-old Victoria is at high risk for miscarriages due to a genetic tissue disorder.

    She’s used monthly birth control pills for years, but something changed election night.

    VICTORIA CROSS: Yes, thought immediately about abortion access, immediately about birth control access and how expensive birth control was when. So I pretty immediately called my gynecologist and: I want to talk to you. Help.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Dr. Stacey Leigh Rubin of Johns Hopkins, Victoria’s gynecologist, says many patients and non-patients have reached out.

    DR. STACEY LEIGH RUBIN, Johns Hopkins: Distant acquaintances and old classmates contacting me on Facebook with concerns and questions about what IUDs are and how they can get them.

    LISA DESJARDINS: It’s a real surge in interest.

    DR. STACEY LEIGH RUBIN: It is a real surge in interest.

    LISA DESJARDINS: An IUD is usually plastic and inserted in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are considered among the most effective birth control methods, but they’re not cheap, running up to $1,000.

    DR. STACEY LEIGH RUBIN: So, what questions do you have about these different methods and what do you think you’re leaning towards?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right now, for Victoria and other women, IUDs and all birth control is free, because the Obama administration considers it a preventative procedure, a category that the Affordable Care Act says must be cost-free to the patient.

    Enter a new White House.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect: Repealing Obamacare is one of the single most important reasons we must win on November 8.

    LISA DESJARDINS: President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. He notably has not said exactly how he will handle the contraceptive benefit. But others close to him have talked about it.

    MIKE PENCE (R), Vice President-Elect: I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.


    LISA DESJARDINS: Vice President-elect Mike Pence, speaking on a radio show in October, highlighted religious groups opposed to contraception, and their religious freedom.

    MIKE PENCE: Our administration is going to err on the side of freedom. We are going to err on the side of protecting the liberties of our people.

    LISA DESJARDINS: A key voice will be Mr. Trump’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, orthopedic surgeon and Georgia Representative Tom Price. He’s echoed concern for religious values and, in 2012, questioned if contraceptive costs were an issue for women.

    REP. TOM PRICE (R-Ga.): Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one. The fact of the matter is, this is a trampling on religious freedom and religious liberty in this country.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Price’s old comment struck an already watchful Internet. Immediately after the election, Google searches for IUD spiked and Twitter saw phrases like “get an IUD” jump in popularity.

    What are the wallet implications? A University of Pennsylvania study found that the Obama contraception policy saved IUD and birth control pill users an average of roughly $250 a year.

    DR. STACEY LEIGH RUBIN: No-cost birth control has been a game-changer for women. And the idea of going back to high out-of-pocket costs for contraception is distressing.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But will Trump change those costs? Someone with insight is Marjorie Dannenfelser. She led what Trump called his Pro-Life Coalition, and runs the anti- abortion group the Susan B. Anthony List.

    Dannenfelser says neither she nor Trump want to weigh in on the morality of contraception, but when it comes to the no-cost mandate:

    MARJORIE DANNENFELSER, President, Susan B. Anthony List: He and I also agree that religious and any individual deserves the right to a conscience, and they shouldn’t be forced to pay for things that they find are undermining of that conscience. So, yes, I believe that he will undo that mandate, and he will be right to do so.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That leads to another question about the president-elect: How quickly could a President Trump change contraception coverage, and therefore out-of-pocket cost? Relatively quickly.

    You see, the contraception mandate is not a law. It’s a rule put in place by HHS. And HHS, under a Trump White House, could change that rule without input from Congress.

    Women like Victoria are making decisions now, as she and her friends remain uncertain.

    VICTORIA CROSS: We talked a lot about our own reproductive health and where do we go from here and how do we prepare for this new administration, where our access may go away?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Victoria’s new birth control will last up to five years. That’s one year longer than the four years of Donald Trump’s first term.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins in Baltimore.

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    A guard opens the gate at the entrance to Camp VI, a prison used to house detainees at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, March 5, 2013.  REUTERS/Bob Strong/File Photo - RTX2P2D6

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: And in other White House news, according to a New York Times report, the Obama administration has notified Congress it plans to transfer 17 or 18 prisoners from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before president-elect Trump takes office.

    In all, the military prison has housed nearly 780 detainees. That number was down to 242 by time President Obama took office. Today, there are 59 remaining, including 22 who have been approved for transfer to other countries. That’s if certain security conditions were met there.

    After this latest batch of transfers, 41 or 42 prisoners would be left at Guantanamo Bay for Mr. Trump’s administration to handle.

    Joining me now for more on this process is Charlie Savage. He’s a Washington correspondent at The New York Times and author of “Power Wars: Inside Obama’s Post-9/11 Presidency.”

    Thanks for joining us.

    So, who are these batch of prisoners that are being transferred? Why them and why not the rest of them?

    CHARLIE SAVAGE, The New York Times: Right.

    So, of the men at Guantanamo, not all of them are cleared for transfer. There’s 10 that are facing charges before a military commission, and there’s about just under 30 who the government has not charged with a crime, but officials believe they are still too dangerous to release. And so they continue to be held as wartime detainees, essentially.

    And then there are these lists you mentioned of about 22 men. That’s the remnants of what used to be a very long list of people who six agencies looked at and decided could be safely released, as long as they went to a country that could provide certain security assurances, like monitoring them and preventing them from travel and so forth.

    In his last sort of second part of his second term, Obama has made a big push to get that list down as close to zero as he can before he leaves office, even if he fails to close the prison.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, closing the prison was something the president wanted, but it also had bipartisan support. Why didn’t it happen?

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: So, you’re right.

    The Bush administration in its second term wanted to close Guantanamo. And in the 2008 presidential election, both Obama and his Republican opponent, John McCain, said that they would close Guantanamo.

    So, when Obama came in and said he would close the prison within a year, it looked like it wasn’t a partisan or a controversial policy to be working towards. But the politics shifted under his feet over the course of 2009-2010.

    And so, at that point, Congress started imposing restrictions on the transfers of detainees, including eventually banning them and their transfer to the United States for any purpose. And President Obama’s plan, often overlooked, for closing Guantanamo wasn’t to release every detainee who could not be charged with a crime.

    There was that group of two or three dozen who the administration itself thought was too dangerous to release, but could not be charged. And his plans, then, to close the prison as to move them to a different prison in the United States, where they would be cheaper to house and where the symbolic sort of notoriety of Guantanamo, the location the Bush administration had used, would go away.

    So, once Congress banned him from bringing prisoners into the United States, that plan could not work. And, therefore, basically, he wasn’t going to close it. And the only question was, would the U.S. get rid of the people at least that it didn’t actually want to hold, this long list of detainees approved for transfer?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about concerns about recidivism?

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: The reengagement rate of detainees who were released in the Bush administration is about 30 percent, suspected or confirmed, a little over 30 percent.

    And that’s because, during the Bush years, large numbers of detainees were sent home to places like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia in bulk transfers after President Bush decided to start trying to close the prison.

    The Obama administration has pursued a different approach, an individualized approach. It has a process where six national security agencies look at individual detainees and have to agree that that person is releasable. And there’s a lot more planning for where they’re going to go and what kind of sort of reentry into society, monitoring, travel restrictions and so forth they’re going to encounter once they get out.

    And that has brought down the recidivism rate for Obama era transfers to about 12 percent, confirmed or suspected.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What do we know about the Trump administration’s plans for Guantanamo Bay?

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: President Trump has said he will keep Guantanamo open and that he will bring new detainees there. He famously said he would load it up with some bad dudes.

    Obama, of course, was trying to close it and failed, but didn’t bring anyone new there in his entire eight years as president, and chipped away at the detainee population.

    So, I think we can safely predict that, sooner or later, in the Trump administration, the United States government will capture a terrorism suspect and bring him to Guantanamo. And he will be the first new prisoner there in quite a long time.

    What we don’t know is whether president-elect Trump intends to shut down all transfers of lower-level detainees to get rid of the six-agency review kind of parole board-like process, or whether he will continue that process, just without — not using it very often.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How much does it cost to keep Guantanamo running?

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: The operating cost of Guantanamo in 2015 was $450 million.

    And so if the Obama administration does succeed in getting roughly 18, plus or minus, detainees out, that would break down to a ratio of about $10 million per detainee per year to house them at Guantanamo.

    There are some asterisks to that, because that figure includes the cost of the military commission system as well, which is not cheap at all.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Charlie Savage of The New York Times, thanks so much.

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: Thank you.

    The post Inside Obama’s final push to transfer Guantanamo detainees appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager and senior advisor to the Trump Presidential Transition Team, speaks to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton - RTX2V8GT

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn now to the Trump transition.

    Kellyanne Conway is senior adviser to the president-elect.

    Kellyanne Kellyanne Conway, thank you for talking with us.

    Mr. Trump has now been certified the winner by the Electoral College, but, as you know, there are still questions out there about the Russian government’s role and whether it influenced the outcome of this election in favor of Mr. Trump.

    My question to you is, since we now have this joint — or what appears to be agreement by the intelligence community that the Russian government was involved and they were trying to help Mr. Trump, is he going to ask for this information that they have, so he can satisfy himself?

    KELLYANNE CONWAY, Senior Adviser to President-Elect Trump: Well, I don’t really agree with that premise in full, Judy, only because we have leaks to the media, rather than CIA officials showing up at closed-door House Intelligence Committee briefings, where they were invited.

    And instead of doing that, they went and talked to the media. I have not seen a report. I have not seen the evidence that they were trying the influence the election. That’s what everybody is doing to confuse and conflate here.

    Also, I would just point out very logically that I don’t remember the Clinton team in those last days before the election having Jay-Z or Beyonce or President Obama or President Bill Clinton out there saying, look, we want to warn you all that there is a chance Hillary Clinton is actually going to lose because of Russian hacking and they’re trying to influence the election.

    That is just not true. They weren’t saying that. They were pretty confident it was going to be a blowout and that they were going to take the House and Senate with them. So I understand the hand-wringing and the breast-beating continues on the left, but let’s be fair.

    We’re not going to interfere with anything the legislature wants to do, certainly. But, secondly, let’s be clear as to what this really is. It’s pure politics. And you even have the president of the United States, President Obama, in his final press conference last Friday, Judy, not going as far as saying he believes that the Russians hacked in and tried to interfere with the elections.

    In fact, he said when he told Putin to — quote — “cut it out,” that Putin did.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, my question, though, is, since Mr. Trump has access now to pretty much any intelligence he wants, can he simply just get this information and satisfy himself once and for all whether it’s true?

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: Perhaps. And perhaps he has.

    But, again, everybody wants to will litigate this in the media. And he’s the president-elect of the United States. Barack Obama is the president of the United States until January 20. And we’re respectful of that.

    And we all must be respectful of the fact that those two gentlemen and others are going to have information that the rest of us don’t. But that’s not what this is about.

    This is about — some of them think it’s Jim Comey’s fault. The others blame the movement. The others blame Bernie Sanders: How dare he run in the first place? The guy won 22 states and over 13 million voters, and, of course, Russian hacking.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you — let me turn you to what Mr. Trump tweeted yesterday after the incidents in Europe.

    Among other things, he said — he referred to terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland, and Germany. He issued statements about Islamist terrorists. But we now know German and Turkish officials say they don’t have all the information. They don’t know the genesis of what happened.

    And we know what happened in Switzerland. They’re saying this is someone who was obsessed with the occult, had killed a friend of his before he committed suicide.

    So, my question is, should Mr. Trump have waited for more information before he tweeted and made a statement?

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: What the president-elect knows is that people across this country and indeed world are afraid of terrorism, and they have a reason to.

    Most predominantly, in the last couple years, Judy, it has been radical Islamic terrorism — terrorists who have done their massacre, certainly in Europe and, of course, the United States, in Orlando and in San Bernardino.

    So, the fact is that he will continue to denounce these acts of terror. He will continue to send condolences to the families of those who have lost.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: But my question is, should he be making public statements before the information is in? Does he not have a responsibility to wait until the authorities have looked into it?

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, he’s very responsible.

    And I would point out I remember — I believe it was during Orlando or San Bernardino — we will have to look — but he blamed radical Islamic terrorism then, and people attacked him for doing that before he had all the information. Of course, he was correct.

    I don’t remember people apologizing or saying, gee, you’re even ahead of it. You’re always ahead of it. Your instincts are right.

    But the fact remains that this president-elect and this future commander in chief is much more serious about stopping and eradicating, as he says, radical terrorists of all strains. But we know that ISIS is really on the advance.

    We know that it’s just false when people call them the J.V. team and that they’re not on the advance. And we will see. We will see what the authorities end up saying.

    But it doesn’t change the fact that, because we’re not as serious about terrorism as we can be, that people all across the globe feel like they can just murder innocent people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about something that President Obama said in his news conference on Friday.

    He said: “By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started.” He said: “It’s a situation I’m proud to leave for my successor. It’s thanks to the American people, to the work you have put in, the sacrifices you have made.”

    Does Mr. Trump believe what Mr. Obama said, that the country is stronger and more prosperous as a result or at the end of the Obama presidency?

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, by some measures, we are.

    But if you look at the polls, Americans don’t feel that way. If they felt that way, they would have given Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama a third term. He himself campaigned mightily across the country for her, basically making that case.

    He said to people, I will take it personally, this is my legacy on the line. And people rejected that call. I think people feel like there is a little bit of unfinished business, Judy. There is no question that you have millions of Americans still lacking health insurance.

    You have millions of Americans, particularly women and children, in poverty as you and I speak tonight. You have a lot of unfinished business, but obviously every president who leaves, particularly after two terms, can point to many different areas where there has been progress and there has been change.

    And I would expect President Obama to do what President George W. Bush did when he left, and President Bill Clinton when he left, which is to point to those numbers of improvement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me finally ask you about what President Obama did today. He announced a ban on new oil and gas drilling on the Atlantic Coast from New England to the Chesapeake Bay. Canada announced something in conjunction with this.

    Is this something that Mr. Trump is going to let stand?

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, I would need to discuss that with him, and he will make those decisions as the president.

    But I will remind us all what his policy towards energy is. It’s basically — and everybody can read it for themselves. As part of his 100-day plan, Judy, President-elect Trump has made very clear that unleashing our energy sources here at home is an incredibly important aspect of that.

    Why? Because we need to invest in all energy sources, including coal and shale. We have energy literally off our shores and under our feet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it sounds like he’s going to reverse it, from what you’re saying.


    KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, it makes us more — well, you’re asking me about a specific policy move, and I can’t comment on that. It would be unfair to the president-elect.

    But I will tell you, if you look at his plan, he’s going to go farther than other presidents have gone in terms of making us more dependent on ourselves energy-wise, and to create billions of dollars in revenue, millions of jobs, some people project, over time.

    And it also means that we’re less dependent on some of these foreign powers for our energy sources, which I know many Americans would appreciate.

    What’s a major concern that people, major grievance Americans lodge, Judy? It’s, we don’t make anything in America anymore. Well, you know what? Energy is in America. And if we can tap into that safely and appropriately, I guarantee that is something that President Trump will certainly look into in a very serious way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Kellyanne Conway, adviser to the president-elect, we thank you.

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: Thank you, Judy. All the best.

    The post Kellyanne Conway: Russian interference claims are ‘pure politics’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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